Author: has written 5272 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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293 Responses

  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer September 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm |

    Jill, perhaps you should learn to search and assess the medical literature for yourself; the Slate article was click-bait/trolling at its most blatant – it’s a case-study in the cherry-picking of studies.

    1. Laura C
      Laura C September 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

      Can you provide some links, then, to reputable studies showing otherwise? In particular, the study of studies linked in the Slate article looking at 36 studies with more than 40,000 participants, finding “no overall adverse effect on penile sensitivity, sexual arousal, sexual sensation, erectile function, premature ejaculation, ejaculatory latency, orgasm difficulties, sexual satisfaction, pleasure, or pain during penetration” seems particularly compelling and I’d be curious to see the studies that find otherwise.

      1. James Dixon
        James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm |

        Nope. No one has bothered doing the research, yet. This got a fair bit of attention, though. Incidently, the author of the review article cited in the Slate piece tried to block its publication. More on that here.

        If you doubt that research of this kind is often conducted poorly, you might consider studies like this one, finding (or, at least, reporting) that women who’ve undergone the most extreme variety of female circumcision have richer, more satisfying sexual lives than uncircumcised Italian women. Female circumcision “was not associated with any sexual problem” in this study, either. And since people so like anecdotes, how about this woman, happy with the outcome of a cosmetic ‘clitoridectomy’?

        Does this mean that my girlfriend is in error in thinking her external genitalia are of value to her? I certainly don’t think so.

        1. Who cares
          Who cares September 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

          No one has bothered to do the research except all of the researchers who showed that your beliefs are wrong. Funny how you skip right over those studies. But I guess we should just take your word and not listen to a bunch of scientists with their obviously lying science.

        2. Koffeewitch
          Koffeewitch September 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

          Nobody is skipping over those studies, least of all the scientists from Europe, Scandinavia in particular and Japan who have called our doctors out on their sloppy studies. Or do you think running a HIV study in which circed men are given counseling, CONDOMS and a mandated 6-8 weeks of sexual abstinence while the intact men are given nothing is good, fair science.

      2. James Dixon
        James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

        Also, you might appreciate this site, devoted to the research of the late John Taylor, a Canadian pathologist, whose research into the structure and functions of the foreskin were published in the British Journal of Urology in 1996 and 1999. It’s a shame that no one has yet picked up where he left off.

      3. James Dixon
        James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

        I took the time to provide a referenced response to this post, but my comments appear to be ‘awaiting moderation’; I suspect it’s because I cited papers undermining Jill’s much cherished perception that ‘mutilated’ women are unable to achieve orgasm or lead satisfying sexual lives.

        1. GallingGalla
          GallingGalla September 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

          What the everliving fucking fuck?!?

          Maybe your comments are in mod because you have a lot of links in them – that triggers the mod filter.

          Or maybe your in mod because you’re so freakin’ misogynist. I dunno.

        2. tigtog
          tigtog September 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm | *

          James Dixon's comments with links were auto-modded because of the number of links. Those comments have now been approved for publication.

          Various commentors sent giraffe alerts, which also are auto-modded. Those comments have now been approved for publication.

          James Dixon's user details are now auto-modded because he's making the thread all about him. Go take a break for a while, James, and let some other people have a chance to discuss this post. Any comments from you submitted within the next hour will be automatically deleted. After that, you may try engaging here again.

        3. James Dixon
          James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

          Why do you think I’m a misogynist? Would I have to be?

          It’s such an odd, confusing thing to say. How do you know we’re not in complete agreement with respect to every issue but this one?

        4. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable September 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

          She thinks you’re a misogynist because while I agree that it’s unethical to remove a child’s foreskin before zie can consent, I manage to voice that concern without comparing it to rape, saying I’d rather be raped, or putting “mutilated” in quotation marks. It’s not that confusing.

        5. Willemina
          Willemina September 19, 2013 at 3:40 am |

          Hehe, and here I was getting worried I’d done something wrong to get thrown in auto-mod. I guess my “read from bottom to top” approach backfired tonight. :D

      4. Dana L
        Dana L September 20, 2013 at 8:41 am |

        Here you go:

        “The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis.”

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17378847/

        “The study confirmed the lower clinical and similar neurophysiological elicitability of the penilo-cavernosus reflex in circumcised men”

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2011.10364.x/abstract

        Correlation between circumcision and premature ejaculation

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02280.x/abstract

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

          Here you go:

          “The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis.”

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17378847/

          Then stop touching it so much.

          “The study confirmed the lower clinical and similar neurophysiological elicitability of the penilo-cavernosus reflex in circumcised men”

          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2011.10364.x/abstract

          Similar neurophysiological elicitabilty? Well, that’s certainly a convincing argument against.

          Correlation between circumcision and premature ejaculation

          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02280.x/abstract

          That article also correlates Indian ethnicity with premature ejaculation, so don’t know how much to trust it, but let’s say it’s true. Surely a premature ejaculation would occur in a more sensitive penis, rather than a less sensitive one.

    2. Archy
      Archy September 20, 2013 at 4:53 am |

      http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/03/prweb512999.htm
      There was this study that showed a severe reduction in sensitivity.

      I personally think it should be banned for under 18′s without clear medical necessity. I think both genders should be free to choose after 18 what to do with their body and all instances of genital mutilation bother me when there are no medical necessities.

  2. Donna L
    Donna L September 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

    Every time female genital cutting is mentioned on Feministe — every time — someone from the “intactivist” community shows up to derail the conversation and make it all about the alleged horrors of male circumcision.

    That is what this thread will end up being about. As you say, it happens every single time even when infant male circumcision isn’t the topic; it’s even more certain to happen now. I’m not sure what the point is of ever even having a thread like this here.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

      Including the very thinly-disguised (if at all) anti-Semitism that always — always — shows up too.

      1. Safiya Outlines
        Safiya Outlines September 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

        And Islamophobia too, that train’s never late.

        1. acantholycosa
          acantholycosa September 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

          Yes, because I am so anti-Jewish and Muslim for believing that infants and children should have choice when it comes to their genitals. Many of the same people who cut girls for religious reasons cut boys too. One can care about both genders, you know.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L September 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

          Neither Safiya nor I said that all anti-circumcision activists are anti-Semitic or Islamophobic. But to deny that both are present in the movement, and manifest themselves with some regularity, would be disingenuous.

      2. Marcie
        Marcie September 19, 2013 at 5:59 am |

        Sadly, I’m not suprised you bring that up.

      3. Koffeewitch
        Koffeewitch September 19, 2013 at 11:23 am |

        Just as there are differences within the feminist movement (say Andrea Dworkin vs. Betty Dodson) intactivists are individual people. There is a Jewish intact organization that celebrates Brit Shalom; an altered ritual without cutting. The sick fact is that American feminists for some reason are behind our counterparts in the rest of the world. European feminist group “Terre de Femme” fights all GM, male and female. We are living in a nation where the 14th ammendment should protect boys from GM just as it has protected girls since 1997. As feminist women, we may have fathers, brothers, male sex partners, and sons. MGM is our issue, too.

        1. faer
          faer September 20, 2013 at 8:27 am |

          Funny you should mention Betty Dodson. She has a pretty strong opinion about circumcision.

  3. James Dixon
    James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

    Only one ‘penile sensitivity’ study cared to include the foreskin in its analysis (Sorrells et al.); it found, not to my surprise, that the foreskin is the most sensitive part of the penis. What people like Jill don’t appear to understand is that circumcisions are harmful, even when successful: the talk of whether the ‘risks’ associated with getting rid of the foreskin outweigh or are outweighed by the ‘benefits’ of living one’s life unburdened by one’s foreskin, are, strictly, pathological. I’d sooner lose a leg than my foreskin. The effect of circumcision, successfully performed, is to degrade sexual life in ways that are severe and irreversible; as sexuality in general (and male sexuality in particular) is not a subject thought deserving of much in the way of serious scholarly attention, this is not yet obvious to those who don’t wish to see it. Fine. Until the research is done and the results appear, I suppose countless boys will continue to be welcomed to the world by having the best part of their genitals cut off. Oh, well.

    Some of the comments feminists like Jill have made on this topic will likely come back to haunt them…

    1. A.Y. Siu
      A.Y. Siu September 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

      I’d sooner lose a leg than my foreskin.

      No foreskin here, but I have two legs, and I’m fine with how I am. I’m going to have to disagree with your preference.

      1. James Dixon
        James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |

        Honestly, I’m happy for you. Most circumcised women, too, are happy with how they are. Surprise: it’s not all about you and your feelings.

        1. victoria
          victoria September 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

          Most circumcised women, too, are happy with how they are.

          Citation?

        2. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

          Citation: his penis. Because it’s essential that the oppressed members of society be heard.

        3. DannyChameleon
          DannyChameleon September 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

          Citation: his penis. Because it’s essential that the oppressed members of society be heard.

          Funniest thing I’ve heard today.

        4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm |

          [Content note: FGM description]

          Oh yes, because having one’s foreskin cut off is identical to the cutting off of one’s clitoris and labia minora and having the labia majora sewn shut.

          When male circumcision involves cutting off the entire penis, get back to us.

      2. Char
        Char September 21, 2013 at 1:47 am |

        Someone actually said they’d rather lose a leg than foreskin?!? My dear friend lost his legs in an industrial accident! He’d give anything to have his legs back, esp foreskin! Whoever said the comment is literally an idiot.

    2. hellkell
      hellkell September 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

      Yes, male sexuality is totally unstudied and misunderstood. /sarcasm

      What planet are you from?

      1. In response to hellkell
        In response to hellkell September 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

        e.g.

        “Sexuality research has been male dominated for a long time and many of these researchers have pathologized women’s sexuality. In recent years, however, the balance has shifted and now we are seeing more women researching sexuality than ever before.” These female researchers are using critical feminist perspectives to deconstruct the misogynistic assumptions that have informed many theories of sexuality, Bossio elaborates, “but this focus has now actually resulted in a dearth of studies on men’s sexual functioning.” In fact, although circumcision is one of the most common surgeries worldwide, there is only one other study on sensitivity and sexual arousal in circumcised vs. uncircumcised penises. So we know almost nothing about the differences in sexual functioning, especially within North American populations.” Bossio’s study will contribute to this understanding with three studies: first, an online study about body image, relationship satisfaction, and sexual functioning among gay and straight biological men and their partners; then, an in-lab arousal study with the help of a laser Doppler imaging machine that can help measure blood flow; and finally, sensitivity testing that involves applying pressure with a calibrated instrument (“basically, a Q-tip on a spring,” describes Bossio).

  4. James Dixon
    James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    Jill, any evidence at all that most opponents of circumcision are men? Why would you make that assumption? I’d love to see some data.

  5. lucky
    lucky September 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

    I have a son and was aware but not fully informed on the depth of the debate when we were making this decision. I have to say in one sense I am glad because the decision wasn’t nearly as fraught as it could have been and in another I feel like I/we didn’t put enough thought into it (though we did discuss it).

    The NIH endorsed of circumcision as a preventative measure for STIs contraction/transmission while I was pregnant and we were made aware of a slew of research establishing that. We had talked about whether we thought it was right to do something permanent, painful, etc. to a newborn but as soon as my SO saw that, he was decided that it was the responsible thing to do and I really couldn’t disagree. I do see it very much as akin to the the vaccination.

    The decision to do it immediately post-natal was reinforced when a friend’s son was circumcised at 5 because of persistent UTIs. The circumcision did solve the problem but the process of multiple consultations with a urologist, going in for the procedure, and the recovery was so much more involved and painful for everyone, most especially the 5yo, than the 30 sec. procedure at the hospital for my newborn.

    However, as much as I am sympathetic to the need for the discussion and continue to wonder if we should have left it up to him, I am disgusted by the attempt to draw a parallel between male circumcision and female genital mutilation. I realize that some female circumcision is relatively benign but the more extreme (and common?) practices cannot be construed as benign let alone helpful. In any case, female circumcision/FGM has never been about cleanliness and health as male circumcision has always been. It is about depriving women of sexual agency, maintaining “purity” and male control of female bodies.

    1. James Dixon
      James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm |

      The boy’s problems were cured by his circumcision? How is that established? Post hoc ergo propter hoc, perhaps?

      Remarkable that European males don’t seem to be plagued by these problems.

      1. Fishing for Insults
        Fishing for Insults September 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

        No European males suffer from UTI? That seems very unlikely.

    2. James Dixon
      James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm |

      Pray tell, how am I unclean for not being circumcised? You did say that circumcision (of boys) has always been about ‘cleanliness and health’ – how might I be any healthier? Talk about shaming people for their bodies; how does the ‘fishy pussy’ meme sit with you?

      And even Wikipedia will alert you to the fact that circumcision spread throughout the Anglosphere to damage the genitals and control ‘masturbatory insanity’.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

        You could be healthier by being at a much lower risk for HIV and STD transmission, as mentioned in the post. Or does reading stuff by women taint your manly dick-purity?

        1. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom September 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

          Heh, “taint”.
          Now that I’m done being nine, may I say that I don’t give two damns how anyone thinks my vulva smells; nobody has to be down there if they don’t want to be.

        2. James Dixon
          James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

          Oh, how silly. You’d be healthier without breasts? I’d be healther without breasts? Why are you trying so hard? American men aren’t ‘healthier’ than Europeans, I’m afraid. Give it up.

          You do know it’s possible to avoid HIV without getting the best part of your genitals cut off, right? I’m assuming you’ve managed it, thus far.

        3. Vanessa
          Vanessa September 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

          You are not healthier by missing healthy and normal body parts. That is ridiculous. It’s like saying you are healthier if you don’t have a uterus, so you can’t get uterine cancer, or fibroids. Or you are healthier by not having toes since fungal infections will not happen.

      2. konkonsn
        konkonsn September 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm |

        Wikipedia can be edited by whoever wants to have their opinion become the fact of the day. High school teachers don’t let their students use it for paper citations.

        1. Willemina
          Willemina September 19, 2013 at 3:35 am |

          CN: Ableism, medically sanctioned abuse circa 1880s

          To be fair the easy way around that is to follow the citations Wikipedia provides. Dr. Kellogg did have some incredibly fucked up ideas about what to do if you caught your little one masturbating, from infibulation for the guys to carbolic acid burns for the girls.

      3. Karak
        Karak September 18, 2013 at 8:21 pm |

        Dude, people get nails, teeth, tonsils, adenoids, organs, bones, and skin removed–not every person needs every procedure. I know people who’ve had prophylactic surgery of mild outpatient to extreme inpatient. It’s not that weird.

        My boyfriend had infected tonsils for years. They should have been removed when he was 8, but they sat on it for another 15 years. Because of that, I’m much more inclined to have my own kid’s tonsils removed as a child.

        Calm yourself.

      4. lucky
        lucky September 19, 2013 at 12:35 am |

        Oh, for the love of all the is holy, male circumcision was developed as a religious practice for the express purpose of being CLEANER and thus healthier. Whether the rational of people in a pre-scientific society with limited access to water 6,000 years ago is accurate is a separate issue from WHY they developed the practice itself.

        And whether the circumcision actually solved the problem… well, I suppose he could have had regular and persistent UTIs before and none after for another reason, and I’ll admit it is unlikely my own child would have had the same issue. But come on. However, if one is going to be circumcised, better at 48hrs than 48mos.

        1. EG
          EG September 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm |

          male circumcision was developed as a religious practice for the express purpose of being CLEANER and thus healthier.

          Citation? I believe in Judaism it is the mark of the covenant between Abraham and his god.

        2. EG
          EG September 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm |

          Meh. When I was a kid, I had regular and persistent pink eye, strep throat, and ear infections. Nobody took anything out. Eventually I just grew out of them.

        3. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom September 20, 2013 at 7:35 am |

          When I was young, I used to get regular strep throat, as did my brother. It stopped when they took his tonsils out. I still cherish the memory as one of the few times in our history as siblings that I ever came out on top.

    3. Vanessa
      Vanessa September 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

      My intact son is 5 yrs old and he has never had a UTI or any problem. With proper intact care, most boys will never have a problem. The foreskin actually PROTECTS from infections. It is fused in young boys preventing anything from getting inside and causing problems. The main cause of infections in intact boys is improper care. How was your friend’s son being cleaned? Was his foreskin being pulled back and washed under with soap?

      1. lucky
        lucky September 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

        It has been a while now and I don’t remember all the details. I don’t think this child’s experience was anything like the norm for intact boys. There very well could have been a physical anomaly that I was not made privy to.

        My only reason for bring that up is that it was far less traumatic and the healing process was much faster and easier for my newborn than her 5yo.

      1. thinksnake
        thinksnake September 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm |

        You know what else was used as a ‘cure’ to masterbation? Vibrators. And corn flakes. Not together though, to my knowledge.
        And really, just about everything. Anti-masterbation tracts were one of the earliest identifiable moral panics after the development of the printing press.
        Basically, just because something was used as a ‘cure’ for masterbation, doesn’t say anything else about it.

        Meanwhile, it’s breakfast time where I am, and I feel like corn flakes today.

  6. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |

    James Dixon doesn’t even seem aware that he is literally the punchline to this piece.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

      …But at least he seems to have this, ahem, issue firmly in hand.

      1. James Dixon
        James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

        Because male masturbation is shameful and embarrassing?

        I just take the issue seriously. Like rape. Think of circumcision as being like rape. Perhaps that will help you to understand.

        1. dawnofthenerds
          dawnofthenerds September 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

          Wow. Just wow. To quote Batman, if I had all day, I couldn’t tell you everything that was wrong with that statement.

        2. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

          Hmm, I’m thinking… that you’re a troll. Comparing something to rape is essentially the new Godwin, bro; no one’s gonna take you seriously.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

          We need a giraffe here. Thanks.

          [thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ moderator]

        4. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

          But thanks for jumping immediately from masturbating all over this thread to chatting about your thoughts on rape! Do those things go together for you often? Not creepy at all! ^^;

        5. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom September 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

          And if I think of fugu like apples, then I will understand how eating an apple is likely to kill me unless prepared by an extremely skilled chef! Oh, wait.
          Look, James Dixon, I have an uncircumcised husband and two uncircumcised sons, and you are embarrassing me because people think that all people who don’t circumcise are like you.

        6. Toast
          Toast September 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

          I have an uncircumcised husband and two uncircumcised sons, and you are embarrassing me because people think that all people who don’t circumcise are like you.

          Exactly. As anti-circumcision as I am, that was an embarrassingly boneheaded and tone-deaf thing to say, James. This kind of hyperbole is exactly why nobody takes “intactivists” seriously.

        7. Angel H.
          Angel H. September 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm |

          We need a giraffe here.

          Thanks.

          [thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ moderator]

        8. James Dixon
          James Dixon September 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

          Sorry, but speaking as a rape survivor, it’s not obvious to me that cutting part of someone’s genitals off with neither their consent nor medical indication, is any better, or any worse, than forcing sex on someone. Given the choice between being raped (again) or being circumcised, I’d choose the former. Of course, I can only speak for myself.

        9. Toast
          Toast September 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm |

          it’s not obvious to me that cutting part of someone’s genitals off with neither their consent nor medical indication, is any better, or any worse, than forcing sex on someone.

          Good luck with that argument. I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that circumcised men will in general give more of a thumbs-up to their circumcision than rape victims will to rape.

          Regardless of your personal preference, what’s not ok is being so oblivious to your audience that you don’t realize that bringing rape into this discussion is going to be useless and inflammatory, not enlightening. It’s a stupid way to gain support for your cause. And that was the point of the entire goddamned article.

        10. Angel H.
          Angel H. September 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

          Giraffe! Giraffe! For the love of God, a giraffe!

          (We need a giraffe here.)

          [thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ moderator]

        11. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable September 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

          We need a giraffe here.

          Rape is not your metaphor. Go eff yourself.

          [thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ moderator]

  7. EuropeanMan
    EuropeanMan September 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

    Dear Jill,

    I found your article after entering “circumcision” on google/news. Guilty as charged. I do that because I think that public awareness is extremely important. There are several studies claiming that circumcision reduces penile sensitivity. Sorrels et al was mentioned above. There is also a study by Cold and Taylor “The prepuce” BJU 1999 which explains everything you need to know about the foreskin. There is also a study conducted in Belgium showing that circumcised men are more likely to have discomfort and pain and have more sexual difficulties.

    You are blaming intactivists for propagating wrong information but I feel the opposite. American health authorities like AAP and to a certain extent also CDC and WHO are in favor of circumcision based on weak scientific evidence that it has benefits. This has been highlighted by a review co-authored by 18 internationally accredited pediatricians: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/12/peds.2012-2896

    The United States has a bias towards circumcision. How else would you explain that European health authorities recommend against it? The reason is that 80% of the male American population is circumcised and many circumcised men want to see a medical justification for what was done to them.

    I feel that your article is more of an attack on intactivists than useful information for feminists. Male circumcision harms women, too. Under that perspective, feminists should be against male infant circumcision, too. Besides, type 1A FGM is equivalent to male circumcision. What not just end both?

    1. tessa
      tessa September 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

      “Dear Jill,

      I found your article after entering “circumcision” on google/news. Guilty as charged. ”

      hilarious! good call, jill!

  8. Toast
    Toast September 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

    I’m a man who was circumcised and has “restored”, am vehemently against routine infant circumcision, and disagree with several points in the linked article (and I read Feministe every day, incidentally). However, I’m constantly embarrassed by “intactivists” jumping in on discussions inappropriately and trotting out meaningless facts that they never bothered to seriously research, like “x fewer nerve endings = less sexual pleasure”.

    A serious dose of sanity and civility is needed in that community, and the circumcision/FGM comparisons need to stop – even if people think there’s an inkling of a comparison (e.g. pinprick being illegal vs circumcision being legal), it’s an inflammatory and counterproductive argument. I find it very frustrating, because there are actually compelling medical and ethical arguments to be made, but the intactivists are too reactionary to engage in a meaningful discussion.

    So guys: If you want to be taken seriously, shut up about FGM, don’t derail irrelevant threads, and come to the table with actual facts. Don’t make the rest of us ashamed to be associated with you.

    1. EuropeanMan
      EuropeanMan September 19, 2013 at 1:30 am |

      Thanks for your story, Toast. Anatomically, the foreskin is the equivalent of the clitoral hood. This is why there are compelling reasons to draw parallels. See for example:

      https://sites.google.com/site/completebaby/female

      I understand though that many men circumcised at birth don’t want to think about it as mutilation. “Mutilation” is a word loaded with a lot of emotions and probably needs to be used with care. Cold and Taylor call it “a partial penile mucosectomy”. Definitely, more fancy than “mutilation”, huh?

      I agree that there are a lot of facts thrown out there by both parties that need further clarification. For example, observational studies claim that circumcision reduces UTIs in the first year of life but there are no randomized control trials that support it. On the other hand, a lot of the literature that highlights the importance and function of the foreskin was published in the last century, e.g., Cold & Taylor “The prepuce” (1999); Winkelmann “Erogenous zones: …” (1959). If everybody mentions the sources of their research, it would create more clarity.

      Since our son was born, I have become a louder and louder advocate against circumcison. I have received “Thank yous” from people for providing them with information. Prospective parents are left in the dark about the cons of circumcision. This needs to be corrected and the AAP is not willing to do it. Circumcision is just a question in the birth plan. Everything else is confusing. Birth preparation books and videos claim that there are benefits but that they are insignificant, there are risks but rare. They never mention further sources of information. Ob/Gyn and pediatricians, when asked they say “we are neutral”. Maybe common sense would help? If you think that calling circumcision “genital mutilation” is offensive, then just ignore it, but I feel that it’s important to speak out.

      1. Smiles
        Smiles September 20, 2013 at 12:29 am |

        While they originally develop from the same tissue, I think it’s a bit disingenuous to compare the penile prepuce to the clitoral prepuce.

        They do not serve the same functions, and the penile prepuce is much, much more innervated.

        1. Hrovitnir
          Hrovitnir September 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

          I would love to know where you’re getting that from, since the clitoris and involved organs have a higher density of nerve endings than the penis – though I was not able to find anything specifically about the prepuce to confirm or deny your statement, it seems unlikely.

          I am opposed to male circumcision and find the US attachment to it bizarre, and I find it difficult to believe there wouldn’t be *some* loss of sensation, but we all know that when insensitive jerks compare male and female circumcision, they do NOT make a distinction between the different types of female circumcision.

          And sure, the removal of the clitoral hood is not innately worse than the removal of the foreskin, but let’s not pretend that’s a reality for any but the very privileged of circumcised women.

          I have observed that the clitoris possesses the most dense nerve supply of any region of the skin, with numerous mucocutaneous end-organs and closely set networks of nerves. The Vater-Pacini corpuscle is present in the base of the clitoris. The organized mucocutaneous ending is present over the entire inner surface of the labia majora and labia minora, with a concentration toward the clitoris.

          http://www.cirp.org/library/anatomy/winkelmann/

          The prepuce provides a complete or partial covering of the glans clitoridis or penis. For over a hundred years, anatomical research has confirmed that both the penile and clitoral prepuce are richly innervated, specific erogenous tissue with specialised encapsulated (corpuscular) sensory receptors

          Removal of the prepuce disturbs normal copulatory behaviour in mammals, including humans. The neuroanatomy of the penile prepuce and glans form a complex sensory platform that is important for normal sexual behaviour. The prepuce/glans clitoridis interface also provides sensory information, which appears to be important for a completely normal sexual response.

          Obviously, sensory innervation of the external genitalia is just one component of a very complex neural network that results in normal reproductive behaviour.

          http://www.norm.org/prepuce.pdf‎

          If you’re interested in their conclusion that the prepuce is “important for normal sexual behaviour”, it’s definitely worth reading; it’s very interesting.

          It’s obviously evolutionary biology, but not evo psych. :P

          And I should note, I do not think circumcised men are innately abnormal or broken; the fact many men are happy with it is part of the reason I’m NOT violently opposed to it. And if the only kind of female “circumcision” that occurred was the equivalent, and most women were OK with it, I’d feel the same. Strangely, that is not the case.

        2. Kyle
          Kyle September 21, 2013 at 3:36 am |

          Source? How does that even make sense? Yes they develop from the same tissue but one magically is has more nerves? If anything the female prepuce would be far more concentrated due to its smaller size, but a drastic change in nerves is an absurd idea with no proof let alone logic. This is exactly the sort of baseless mythology that bounces around the intactivist community that invalidates the whole thing. And this is coming from someone who is extremely anti-circumcision.

  9. Kyosuke
    Kyosuke September 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

    This is one of those debates where I’ve read both sides and come to no conclusion of my own. I sit in the back and watch. As a trans woman who couldn’t give a damn about the loss of my own foreskin (I have no way to ascertain about the loss of sexual function, I don’t enjoy using that part of my body to begin with), I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    On the subject of FGM, however, I can say that everything I have studied about it indicates it is largely done in contravention of official laws (Egypt, as an example, where it is perpetuated despite being outlawed), and without adequate medical care or medical knowledge, being done mostly by people without medical training.

    Trying to compare the two issues, side by side, is ridiculous. The degree of magnitude between male circumcision in developed nations and the extent of female genital mutilation in wide swaths of the developing world is so great that I have trouble taking comments made about the former seriously when posted on articles about the latter.

    Have your ethical debate, but please have it somewhere else.

  10. Amelia the lurker
    Amelia the lurker September 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm |

    Just on principle, I oppose the permanent removal of body parts without the consent of the person to whom the part belongs, unless it’s literally a life-or-death situation. The body part’s functionality is, IMO, beside the point. Also, don’t forget that in the U.S., non-religious circumcision was popularized as an anti-masturbation measure by John Harvey Kellogg, who was a total sick fuck and also proposed FGM for female-bodied people. That said, I also resent the derailing of discussions about FGM, since the social context, and scope of the harm, is so different. I also think it’s counterproductive to call circumcision “mutilation.”

    1. feminist lurker
      feminist lurker September 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

      Ditto. Why are people here being so hostile to the idea that circumcision violates bodily integrity? It seems very much like a feminist issue to me, yet feminists here are mocking it. It’s disappointing.

    2. EuropeanMan
      EuropeanMan September 19, 2013 at 2:00 am |

      At the same time, male circumcision should not be trivialized either. Ok, maybe let’s just call it “forceful and unnecessary amputation”. But I don’t see the difference. You say that the social context is different. Not always. Muslim boys are often circumcised right before puberty and in many Arabic countries without anesthesia. That is also a different social context than when done to newborns in the US. Do we still call it circumcision or do we have a different word for it?

    3. Marcie
      Marcie September 19, 2013 at 5:50 am |

      “Mutilation or maiming is an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, sometimes causing death.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutilation

      How does this definition not apply?

      In fact, I consider “circumcision” an euphemism.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

        Your argument, of course, proves too much. Because if you were correct, then shouldn’t voluntary “mutilation” also be illegal? Shouldn’t voluntary adult circumcision be outlawed? If it’s so damn harmful, why allow people to choose to do it?

        Also, I would bet that it never crossed your mind how EXACTLY this kind of broad definition of mutilation is regularly used — and has been for 40 years — to apply that term to trans people’s genital surgery.

        1. Max R
          Max R September 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

          The distinction lies in the issue of consent. There are conditions, although only rarely, which necessitate circumcision. It is the routine, medically unnecessary removal of the foreskin without consent which is under debate.

          Also, I don’t think “intactivists” are trying to deny adults of consenting age the option to elective genital surgery.

  11. Mysterics
    Mysterics September 18, 2013 at 8:26 pm |

    There’s a problem with this article, the arguments that are used to excuse the cutting of little girls genitalia is exactly the same;

    ‘It decreases contamination of HIV, and myriad of other illnesses’ ‘Women who are circumcised report no significant loss of sensitivity’ and these are supported by myriad of studies that are produced by people that support ‘female genital mutilation’.

    People who oppose the cutting off of babies genitalia are not contradicting a whole field of research, they’re contradicting a huge mass of ignorance.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm |

      Why the scare quotes around female genital mutilation? Do you really think the destruction of the genitals – and it’s done specifically to destroy any chance of sexual pleasure, to control women and keep us “pure” – isn’t mutilation?

      I’m not particularly pro- or anti- male circumcision, but the idea that it’s comparable with FGM is disgusting.

      1. EuropeanMan
        EuropeanMan September 19, 2013 at 2:08 am |

        It depends what type of FGM. Not all FGM destroys sexual organs. Most FGM performed in Somalia remove “only” the clitoral hood and this was done in the US, too, until the early 70′s. It’s important to say that male circumcision can be compared to type 1A FGM. This is medically and scientifically correct. And I give you the source here:

        http://artemide.bioeng.washington.edu/InformationIsPower/cold-taylor-prepuce_bju_1999_83_34-44.pdf

        Just read it and don’t make claims without sources!

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm |

          But there is NO male circumcision that is equivalent to the worst FGM, yet men keep coming into conversations about that and derailing. You can keep your mansplaining to yourself, kthanx.

        2. EuropeanMan
          EuropeanMan September 20, 2013 at 1:08 am |

          Yes, there are forms of male genital mutilation that are much worse than the male circumcision performed in the US. It’s called “subincision” and it’s widespread:

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

          Please, do your research before claiming something out of the blue.

          And no matter what, cutting off pieces of anybody’s genitals without their full consent is genital mutilation, even if there are worse examples in one gender than the other.

    2. karak
      karak September 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm |

      Actually, those are rarely the reasons given for more serious FGM, and even if they were, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some health benefits to circumcision and none to FGM.

      1. EuropeanMan
        EuropeanMan September 20, 2013 at 1:16 am |

        Sources?

        You are just committing the same mistake as intactivists are accused of: just claiming something without sources and thus derailing the discussion. Please, read the review by European-Canadian-Australian pediatricians:
        http://artemide.bioeng.washington.edu/InformationIsPower/Pediatrics-2013-Frisch-peds.2012-2896.pdf

        Any published study claiming benefits to male circumcision is questionable.

  12. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl September 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

    Well, I’m not an intactivist by any stretch of the imagination.

    But I found that article to be ridiculously strident and confrontational in its tone. Worse yet, it actually does contain several factual inaccuracies. For example, any increased issue with UTIs as compared to circed individuals disappears after the first year of life. And the science regarding decreased sensation is not settled by a long shot. More disturbingly, the author failed to acknowledge any of the potential complications of circumcision, such as bleeding, scarring, and probably most seriously, the increased risk of meatal stenosis.

    And we had this go around a year or so past about the African studies of adult circumcision and the decreased rates of HIV transmission. There are numerous flaws in that study, such as the fact that the participants were paid for their participation, and there are still no longer term stats because of its being a relatively recent study. Furthermore, the lowered transmission rates were only seen in heterosexual men. Which means that non-hetero men did not see any appreciable benefit to elective circumcision lowering their rates of contracting HIV.

    I didn’t circumcise my boys, because the spouse and I agreed that that decision is for them to make if they so choose in the future. I honestly don’t care about those who do opt to circ, for religious or personal reasons. But I object rather strenuously to either or both sides turning this issue into a cudgel to beat up on those who disagree with your pov.

    1. Toast
      Toast September 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm |

      Agreed, the linked article was pretty crap. People seem to always miss, among other things, that those studies were a) in Africa, with totally different HIV demographics and b) on adult men. The HPV argument is absurd, because we have a vaccine now. And not only does the UTI benefit disappear, it takes 111 infant circumcisions to prevent a single UTI (Arch Dis Child 2005;90:853–858). Compare that to the complication rate of circumcision (it’s roughly twice that).

      While meatal stenosis sucks, the most serious complication is amputation of the glans though. I always remember this story:

      http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=19705

      1. thinksnake
        thinksnake September 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

        Just wanted to point out that while there is a working vaccine for some strains of HPV (specifically those linked to cervical cancers), it by no means protects against all of them. So it’s hardly absurd to look at HPV infection rates.

    2. Willemina
      Willemina September 19, 2013 at 3:18 am |

      I don’t have the papers handy but I’m pretty sure the three African RCTs were strictly studying female-to-male transmission so no conclusions can be drawn for any other route. There was a male-to-female study done that showed a higher rate of female infection with a circumcised partner but the discrepancy was attributed to early resumption of sexual intercourse following the procedure.

      Of course now that the policy is in place on the ground Zambian sex workers have all sorts of interesting anecdotes.

  13. Hermione Stranger
    Hermione Stranger September 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm |

    And, similarly, any conversation about male circumcision will have at least one person comparing it to female circumcision.

    1. Kyosuke
      Kyosuke September 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

      Hey, there’s a name I recognise. :3

  14. Mysterics
    Mysterics September 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm |

    Not to say that the social nature of ‘circumcision’ for boys and girls is the same.

  15. Circumcised Male
    Circumcised Male September 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm |

    Jill, I didn’t even know about the “intactivist” community before reading your post, and I’ve never spoken or written about male circumcision before, so I’m not a circumcision troll.

    But I have to say, your attitude towards males who are circumcised is appalling and hideous. There’s something unseemly about a feminist woman dismissing men who are passionate about the issue of male circumcision as “trolls.” Something tells me you wouldn’t similarly dismiss a feminist for bringing up FGM on a blog post about male circumcision — nor should you! This should not be an “us vs. them” issue. Feminists should fully support the right of men to be free from penis mutilation. If an adult male chooses to undergo the procedure, that’s his choice and his right. But to force it on an infant male is cruel and barbaric.

    In terms of the actual effects of circumcision, I know anecdotally from speaking with women that there is a perceived difference in the functionality/sensitivity of circumcised and uncircumcised penises. My own orgams feel very … dull (for lack of a better word) compared to the descriptions I read from uncircumcised men. It takes a lot more work for me to have a satisfying orgasm compared to my uncut brothers.

    1. thinksnake
      thinksnake September 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

      Your personal experience, especially when it is literally impossible to really compare anything like this in any real way, doesn’t end up meaning all that much. And if you feel like your orgasms aren’t all that great, there can be all sorts of reasons for that that have nothing to do with your junk at all – I’ve been in and out of full blown anorgasmia through my time on various medications, and my health history affects that also.

    2. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

      I know anecdotally from speaking with women that there is a perceived difference in the functionality/sensitivity of circumcised and uncircumcised penises. My own orgams feel very … dull (for lack of a better word) compared to the descriptions I read from uncircumcised men. It takes a lot more work for me to have a satisfying orgasm compared to my uncut brothers.

      Anecdotally, maybe that’s just you. I have perceived no such difference in my partners. There is a wide variety of sexual response among people whose genitals have not been altered in any way. Again, it could just be you, which is why anecdote is not actually a reliable form of research.

    3. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 4:45 am |

      In terms of the actual effects of circumcision, I know anecdotally from speaking with women that there is a perceived difference in the functionality/sensitivity of circumcised and uncircumcised penises. My own orgams feel very … dull (for lack of a better word) compared to the descriptions I read from uncircumcised men. It takes a lot more work for me to have a satisfying orgasm compared to my uncut brothers.

      I too was ‘mutilated’ by my parents as a baby (under anaesthesia, in a hospital, I might add.)

      However, I happen to have countless lists of women who will attest to the almost superhuman functionality/sensitivity of my penis. Well, perhaps not countless, but I can certainly produce one who will say she is consistently satisfied.

      I would wager that your problem with sex is one of attitude, not of foreskin largely due to a couple of red flags raised. You say “It takes a lot more work for me to have a satisfying orgasm compared to my uncut brothers.” Leaving aside the disturbing light that shows on your relationship with your brothers, the fact that you view sexual satisfaction in terms of yourself is red flag #1 and the fact that you somehow imagine that working harder in bed will cause you to be less satisfying to women is red flag # 2. One paints you as selfish, one paints you as stupid, combine them both and you’ve got the kind of guy that would have difficulty satisfying women with all the foreskin in the world.

  16. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune September 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

    I still don’t understand what’s wrong with waiting to circumcise until early teenage, or ideally mid- or late-teenage. Yes, the procedure’s more complicated. Yes, the procedure has a longer recovery time. But for fuck’s sake, at least then one isn’t taking bits off penises without asking the penis haver how they feel about it. And no, I don’t feel substantially more comfortable about religious reasons for circumcision than non-religious ones. I’m Hindu; I can rattle off fifty very religious very recommended things that are awful and wrong and violate bodily autonomy, that we got around to figuring out were awful and wrong and violated bodily autonomy, and got rid of those sacred cows. (There, I made the joke so you don’t have to.) Or are trying to. It’s also my understanding from past threads that traditionally-pro-circumcision religions also have branches that delay or optionalise circumcision. I don’t think circumcision is “as bad” as the less in-name-only forms of FGM, but seriously, how much dogshit in your coffee is too much dogshit in your coffee?

    To take an analogy, IUDs have a higher rate of pregnancy prevention than circumcision’s STI prevention rates. I have a twelve-year-old FAAB child I would rather not damage her health by getting pregnant in the next year. Does this mean I can go get a doctor to shove an IUD in her while she’s asleep and rationalise it as “well, you weren’t able to consider it at the time, and 12yo children face physical and mental health risks if they get pregnant, and I worried you might get raped, so I did what was best for you”? Is there anyone here who would condone this heinous shit? However, if the kid came to me and discussed wanting to have “straight” sex, and asked to go on birth control, you bet your ass I would be giving the kid the condoms talk and the birth control talk and the plan B talk and the “maybe a couple more years would be good” talk. (We’ve had those talks already ftr.) I seriously don’t see what the BFD is in waiting to circumcise, if you’re not even doing it for religious reasons.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl September 19, 2013 at 11:20 am |

      I think your analogy is a very coherent one, Mac, and I agree with you. I’m very passionate about NOT doing stuff to my kids that are irreversible without their consent. Of course if they needed i tensive medical treatment prior to reaching the age of majority, I would probably go ahead and have that done, even if they disagreed with it. But the stakes would have to be terribly high, and frankly, as they get older, I DO actually think we should listen to and try to honor their wishes for their own bodies and health as much as possible.

      Because our children are not our property, once they are born into this world. They deserve to have their bodily autonomy and personal wishes respected, and to ignore that is really rather thoughtless and even barbaric in my mind. Children are people too, and while lots of folks somehow don’t want to imagine or acknowledge it, all children grow up to be adults eventually. That the issue is RIC, especially of the non-religious variety, does not and should not change that calculus.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 4:55 am |

        I think your analogy is a very coherent one, Mac, and I agree with you. I’m very passionate about NOT doing stuff to my kids that are irreversible without their consent. Of course if they needed i tensive medical treatment prior to reaching the age of majority, I would probably go ahead and have that done, even if they disagreed with it. But the stakes would have to be terribly high, and frankly, as they get older, I DO actually think we should listen to and try to honor their wishes for their own bodies and health as much as possible.

        Because our children are not our property, once they are born into this world. They deserve to have their bodily autonomy and personal wishes respected, and to ignore that is really rather thoughtless and even barbaric in my mind. Children are people too, and while lots of folks somehow don’t want to imagine or acknowledge it, all children grow up to be adults eventually. That the issue is RIC, especially of the non-religious variety, does not and should not change that calculus.

        Out of curiosity, did you have your children’s umbilical cord cut off? Did it cause you a similar dilemma?

        1. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

          Steve, the umbilical stump falls off on its own. The cord is clamped and cut in order to detach it from the placenta. Cutting the cord also causes no pain.

          It’s a poor comparison.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

          Steve, the umbilical stump falls off on its own. The cord is clamped and cut in order to detach it from the placenta. Cutting the cord also causes no pain.

          It’s a poor comparison.

          Lola didn’t say her objections were based on pain and the inevitability of it falling off. She based her objections purely on bodily autonomy. I was wondering if she had at least considered whether or not cutting the umbilical cord was necessary. It was actually an honest question, not a rhetorical and I wouldn’t be shocked if she said had thought about it.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm |

          Steve, you are making less than no sense. Even if you don’t cut the umbilical cord off, it’ll fall off on its own. Unless you think uncircumcised men somehow spontaneously lose bits of their penis, I’m dying to know how you think it’s remotely valid as a comparison.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

          Steve, you are making less than no sense. Even if you don’t cut the umbilical cord off, it’ll fall off on its own. Unless you think uncircumcised men somehow spontaneously lose bits of their penis, I’m dying to know how you think it’s remotely valid as a comparison.

          Well, putting aside the fact that we do lose skin naturally, I will repeat again, I was not making the comparison on an inevitability or pain basis. Purely on a bodily autonomy level, why is ‘it will fall off anyway?’ a valid excuse if bodily autonomy is sacred?

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

          OK so I have some issue going on where my milk teeth don’t fall off by themselves. Does that mean my parents violated bodily autonomy by getting them extracted? What about my dad’s tonsillectomy? Bodily autonomy violation =/= treatment health issues. As Lola herself mentioned. OTOH there is no intrinsic harm in being uncircumcised; e.g. two asexual celibate men, one circed and the other not, are equally unlikely to acquire STIs or whatever. Getting rid of essentially a skin tag is so not the same as circumcision. Of course, if you can find someone who’s been cuddling a giant complex about not being able to carry their umbilical cord around with them in a baggie because the evil doctors cut it off, I’ll be happy to reconsider my point of view. You might as well argue that my parents shouldn’t have trimmed my toenails, ffs.

        6. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

          …I’m dying to know how you think it’s remotely valid as a comparison.

          ..also, I had both procedures done to me shortly after birth, so I sort of do think that qualifies me to compare them a little. Dontcha think? Why wouldn’t you at least want to listen to my input on this comparison as I do have first hand experience?

        7. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

          The point is that the cord isn’t cut off. The cord is cut, separating the infant from the placenta. This is absolutely medically necessary, unless you think that it’s healthy for an infant to be attached to a piece of dead and decaying meat–a great vector for infection. The stump then dries up and falls off. It’s not a question of “it’ll fall off anyway.” It’s that the action taken–cutting the cord–is absolutely necessary for the infant’s health, and then the stump falls off. What this could possibly have to do with circumcision is beyond me.

        8. Willemina
          Willemina September 21, 2013 at 1:41 am |

          I only had one of the procedures done to me and my dad managed it by himself without any anesthesia. Super glad my mom didn’t let him try for the second.

          If your memories are like mine then you’ll recall that it looked like there was a worm crawling out of your belly. My reaction to that was “Fuck off,” then my dad came over and was like “Ha ha, I’m Errol Flynn *snip snip*.” While I was rather attached to my first pet I’m not particularly put out with the fact my parents did that. Or cut my hair and toenails, or gave me baths, or fed me when I was wee.

          If I have children I may decide to leave their worm-like friend there to shrivel and dry up, but I’ll more likely think “Hey, they might want some stem cells when they’re older” and snip away.

    2. Hugh
      Hugh September 20, 2013 at 1:40 am |

      Great analogy, Mac. Of course even this analogy doesn’t capture it, because it’s easier (not easy, just easier) to remove an IUD than reverse a circumcision. But it really hammers home the flaw in ‘what’s the deal with circumcision’ arguments.

    3. Willemina
      Willemina September 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

      how much dogshit in your coffee is too much dogshit in your coffee

      I had a philosophy prof that used a similar flourish to illustrate problems with utilitarian thinking and justifications. It’s the driving point that intactivists (and many other people) tend to miss. Problem X doesn’t have to be THE WORST PROBLEM IN THE HISTORY OF EVER and to say so immediately derails in to an Oppression Olympics race to the bottom.

  17. MikeTorrez
    MikeTorrez September 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

    Vaccinations are not comparable. One is a surgery that removes the prepuce from the male forever for a supposed tiny risk reduction later in life…and even then, only for the male. Speaking from experience, you can live a full and happy life with foreskin. If your child is not vaccinated, you risk exposing him/her to various life threatening illnesses during adolescence. Nobody dies from being uncircumcised. Children die from the measles though.

    See the difference?

  18. Antha
    Antha September 19, 2013 at 12:57 am |

    Whether circumcision reduces the rate of STDs is irrelevant to it being morally wrong to mutilate a baby or young child incapable of consenting to such a thing. And yes it’s mutilation. Not as severe as the mutilation involved in FGM, but mutilation all the same.

    Circumcision lowers the risk of HIV acquisition in heterosexual men by about 60 to 70 percent.

    Hey that’s great. You know what lowers the risk of post-birth HIV acquisition to zero for both heterosexuals and homosexuals? Celibacy. Or monogamy after both partners have been tested and found disease free. Or hell, even polyamory after all partners involved have been tested and found disease free. How about letting men grow up to have the option of choosing one of these instead of mutilating their penises because it’s “in their best interest”?

    1. Drahill
      Drahill September 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

      You know what lowers the risk of post-birth HIV acquisition to zero for both heterosexuals and homosexuals? Celibacy.

      Because it’s worked so wonderfully so far.

      Or monogamy after both partners have been tested and found disease free. Or hell, even polyamory after all partners involved have been tested and found disease free.

      Because everybody has access to STD testing, and there’s no stigma against people with HIV/AIDS that would deter a positive person from disclosing their status…oh, wait.

      You also seem to miss that circumcision as a preventive tool isn’t being bandied about too much in the US anymore by professionals. The proposals that center it as preventive tool are mostly centered on Africa and other developing areas where HIV is epidemic, condoms are distrusted or prohibited and testing is basically nonexistent. This is why intactivisism often invalidates itself – it can’t accept that different places have different needs. Although I have unfortunately encountered those who argue that Africans just need to learn to “keep it in their pants” before acknowledging that circumcision might be a viable tool.

  19. Ally S
    Ally S September 19, 2013 at 1:11 am |

    I think that the intactivist movement is horrible because of its members’ tendency to compare FGM and circumcision, and I understand that there may be some health benefits resulting from circumcision. Plus it reeks of extremism and anti-feminism. But at the end of the day, I completely oppose non-consensual circumcision for anyone, including children – who are unable to consent to such an operation.

    It’s true that parents do a lot of things to kids that technically violate bodily autonomy, but so far as I can tell, circumcision for children is completely unnecessary. I think it’s better to let them decide when they’re capable of making the decision to get a circumcision. Things like vaccines aren’t comparable because I think at least some vaccines are actually needed at a young age.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

      Pretty much sums it up for me, Ally. Look at all the carryon on this thread alone, where people are seriously suggesting that there’s a parallel between the operation done on boys with FGM, simply because not all FGM is of the most extreme form. False equivalency for the win. My eyes are rolling so hard right now – where’s that lint roller you had?

  20. cim
    cim September 19, 2013 at 2:26 am |

    Coming from the UK where routine infant circumcision is largely only performed for religious rather than secular reasons, the whole argument seems rather odd. But:

    Jill: the vaccination piece is perhaps comparable — it’s an irreversible medical intervention
    Perhaps on a very broad level. However, there are important differences:
    – vaccination has to be carried out at a very early age to be medically effective; circumcision can be carried out later without losing medical benefits (especially those related to HIV transmission!). Seriously: if you’re old enough to consent to sex you can consent to medical procedures to make it safer.
    – the medical evidence in favour of vaccination being effective is basically indisputable, and similarly the risks of vaccination are much smaller

    I think it might be more comparable to routine infant appendectomies (both surgery, can prevent serious health conditions later, also has risks, no general medical need to do immediately)

    1. Ledasmom
      Ledasmom September 20, 2013 at 7:41 am |

      Part of the problem in discussing the issue is that there’s no really comparable operation; one’s choice of comparison (ear-piercing vs. infant appendectomy) inevitably reflects one’s perception, the first (piercing) being less risky and the second (appendectomy) being considerably more so.
      Cim, not singling you out my mentioning your particular comparison; the point just struck me at this time. It would be nice to have a discussion that gets into the meat of the issue, but it’s a difficult one.

  21. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth September 19, 2013 at 2:31 am |

    I read Feministe through my RSS reader every. day. And while I don’t consider myself an “intactivist”, I think it’s crazy to conflate vaccination for often-fatal childhood illnesses with routine surgery on non-consenting persons to remove a healthy and functional body part in the name of some potential benefit in the far-distant future.

    But then, I respect my children as people. I leave everything that they can decide for themselves up to them– my 2-year-old just went nearly three weeks without having his hair brushed, for example, because it’s not my hair and the worst thing that could happen is that he’ll realize he needs it cut to be comfortable. I don’t force them to eat anything they don’t want to eat, although I encourage and model certain patterns.

    My issue with routine neonatal circumcision is that it can always be done later if needed/wanted, so why make that choice in advance on your non-consenting child’s behalf? If my child is 14 and wants the touted protection from STIs and is willing to alter their body to attain that, fine by me. It’s not my body. What’s so wrong with allowing someone to decide that for themselves as a tween or a teen?

    I found this site years ago through a link off of Feministing. I’ve never commented on Feministe about genital surgery before. I don’t make comparisons between FGM and male circumcision. I’m certainly not male. I’m not sure how attacking a viewpoint that epitomizes the importance of consent and bodily sanctity is feminist.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl September 19, 2013 at 11:12 am |

      I want to second, minus the potentially ableist language, the objection to equating RIC with vaccination. It’s an outrageous parallel to make, because the risks of dying from not being circumcised are not even in the same universe, statistically speaking, from not being vaccinated for things like rubella or meningitis.

      Frankly, i don’t understand why Jill is so invested in RIC as a cause. Especially when she is otherwise so enthusiastic in defending people’s rights to their own bodily autonomy. It simply doesn’t compute.

  22. Willemina
    Willemina September 19, 2013 at 2:52 am |

    Hey, in other news PETA makes other animal rights groups look bad.

    I always feel like the arguments against neonatal circumcision often go that one or two steps too far. I think there’s a strong ethical case against the practice without making false equivalencies to FGM but the minute the two get linked up it’s all over. I also dislike the comparison to vaccination and anti-vaxxers on this coming from the other direction. Vaccines are a solution developed in response to a well established and understood problem while circumcision as a prophylactic is a justification chasing an extant practice.

    Really the only conversation I think it’s worth it to juxtapose neonatal circumcision and FGM is examining how easily people jump in to -ism loaded language (anti-Semitism for the former and colonialism for the latter) when arguing issues that deserve more nuance and awareness.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |

      I think there’s a strong ethical case against the practice without making false equivalencies to FGM but the minute the two get linked up it’s all over.

      BINGO.

  23. Thomas
    Thomas September 19, 2013 at 3:52 am |

    I’m sorry, but I have to say that I am honestly offended that feministe would give credit to this piece and even more upset by the tone that this discussion quickly digressed in to. I hope that Jill will not hold me at fault for being a man who “parachute[d] into Feministe comment sections, having never been on the site before the word ‘circumcision’ [was] mentioned.” If I haven’t commented before, perhaps it is because that as a man i feel that I would have little to add to discussion, or that it would by inappropriate of me to make any assumptions about feminine experience.

    I think that is why I find your post so offensive. Maybe you cannot appreciate this, but as a circumcised male, who never had the chance to experience my genitalia fully formed, who will forever have a scar around the most intimate part of his body, I find it horrifying that you would reduce this conversation to nothing more than an “interesting and important bodily autonomy question.” How dare you impede yourself in the middle of a private issue concerning a person and his body?

    I regret that James Dixon was the first male to respond to this article- ultimately proving the point that you were trying to make that “intactivists” (seriously, what a moronic name) are nothing but trolls. But then again, what did you expect? you just lent your support to an article that argues that we should mutilate the penises of newborn infants (and yes, mutilate- i will use the word because somebody removed a section of MY penis– if you don’t understand how that is mutilation then you obviously don’t have a penis). You and the medical industry (who by the way makes some amount of money off of every circumcision and therefore has some motivation for continuing it beyond the “greater good”) don’t have the right to decide that for me.

    James Dixon maybe overstated the argument— but it is important to consider. Why do you disregard a study about female orgasms in victims of FGM but accept a study about the sexual pleasure experienced by men who have been circumcised? and for that matter- how does one even begin to measure something as subjective as pleasure? Is it not possible that men who willing have themselves circumcised later in life are not representative of the entire male population? Why was I not given the chance to determine on my own my experience of pleasure? Circumcision is a serious issue, that it is fronted by a apparent group of trolls is a shame, but don’t think for a second that gives you a right to make a decision someone elses body. I am sorry if my tone seems extreme– but imagine how you would feel if someone said FGM was not only unnoticeable for the victim but was actually a necessary sacrifice to promote better health in women. By the way, if you don’t think that circumcision is connected to reducing male sexual pleasure, even the smallest amount of research will reveal that many advocates of circumcision in the past hundred years or so were also prominent in anti-masturbation movements. Anyway– I hope you’re more considerate of the feelings of your male readers next time you wish to post something about circumcision.

    1. EuropeanMan
      EuropeanMan September 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

      Thomas, I totally feel for you. As an adult man who moved from Europe to the United States I am totally shocked and horrified. My parents (Italians) were deeply shocked when I told them that Americans do this to their male babies. Since I am now the father of a child, it forces me to think twice about everything that US doctors recommend. It might just be an emotional reaction but I need to research every single decision about my child and maybe this is how it should be.

      Like you I’m also disappointed that the discussion about circumcision is often reduced to a pure ethical discussion about bodily autonomy completely dismissing that it is a form of mutilation. But then I need to ask the question: Hey ladies, would you be ok surgically removing your clitoral hood? Can you do without? Would you still be able to masturbate, get aroused and have sex without a clitoral hood? If forcibly removing the clitoral hood is considered a form of mutilation, so why are we not allowed to call the removal of the foreskin a form of mutilation? Why is it that women have the legal right to keep the pleasure and joy of having a clitoral hood while for men it runs down to a parental choice? Shouldn’t feminism be about equal rights?

      1. EG
        EG September 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm |

        I need to research every single decision about my child and maybe this is how it should be.

        Oh, join the fucking club. What, if you were in Italy you’d just blindly accept whatever the authority figure said? Clearly you’ve never tried to get medical care as a woman.

        Seriously, the level of “HOW CAN YOU UNDERSTAND MY MAN-PAIN” here is getting absurd.

        1. EuropeanMan
          EuropeanMan September 20, 2013 at 1:27 am |

          “What, if you were in Italy you’d just blindly accept whatever the authority figure said?”

          Not specifically Italy. My parents are from Italy but I grew up in Central/Northern Europe. I usually check the websites of a few European health care authorities and compare them to the CDC. I also like to read papers about a topic. It takes a lot of effort, but at least I’m sure that I’m making the right decision. And by the way, Italy ranks 2nd (after France) in terms of health care quality:

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

          They must be doing something right.

        2. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm |

          Italy does a lot of things right. But the idea that woe, woe is you because now that you are in the US you must research things that have to do with your child’s health because of circumcision is one that would make even the most dramatic of hamsters roll its little beady eyes. Go find yourself a real problem.

    2. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm |

      imagine how you would feel if someone said FGM was not only unnoticeable for the victim but was actually a necessary sacrifice to promote better health in women.

      It’s telling that you think we haven’t heard this argument made many, many times. You know how outraged you are? This is what it’s like being a woman every damn day. So dial it back a notch, and knock off the bullshit about how we can’t possibly understand your pain.

    3. Kyosuke
      Kyosuke September 19, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

      I have a penis. One I will be modifying to a very, very, very significant degree by turning it into a vagina and paying at least $10K for the privilege.

      I’m circumcised and could not care less about that fact. Frankly because I don’t care at all. I certainly don’t consider it mutilation, and I’m not from a Jewish family. My parents (male and female) made the decision for me based on the research they did, and I don’t have a problem with it. I might feel differently if I wasn’t a trans woman, but…

      My point is that being a penis owner clearly doesn’t require one to consider it “mutilation.” I don’t. You’d be on better ground saying, “cisgender man,” but even that I think is stretching it.

    4. Mariucel
      Mariucel September 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm |

      if you don’t understand how that is mutilation then you obviously don’t have a penis

      I don’t understand how that is mutilation and I am both male and have a penis. Also I am European (German).

      The use of the word “mutilation”, even without mentioning FGM, is bringing up a barbarous practice to compare with a practice that is much less harmful – if at all harmful.

      Yes, the original article is treating a very debatable issue as if the science were settled – which it’s not. But the men raising their complaining voices in this thread OH WOE IS ME are similarly acting as if harm has been proven.

      Parents are allowed to do a whole lot of stuff to their kids which affects them permanently. They have a pretty wide leeway in this, this is the consensus in most societies. We don’t allow them to do harmful stuff, stuff WE KNOW is harmful. FGM belongs in this group. Circumcision doesn’t.

      The whole debate as it has become louder and louder in the past years strikes me as one more effort by men to latch onto discourses that are only affecting oppressed groups. This is why these people are co-opting the tone and voice of those groups. I find this highly, highly offensive.

      And the use of “mutilated” is one of the reasons it’s offensive. People who use “mutilation” to refer to circumcision belong on the same pile as people who use “misandry” or “reverse racism”.

      As a European, there’s also more than a whiff of antisemitism that frequently accompanies these debates (because circumcision here is the exception, not the norm), but I guess that’s different for people from the US?

    5. Fishing for Insults
      Fishing for Insults September 21, 2013 at 12:46 am |

      And yet circumcised men still masturbate.

  24. BigRedGeek
    BigRedGeek September 19, 2013 at 4:09 am |

    Dear author,

    I understand why you have an issue with anyone equating male circumcision with FGM. They are not equal and given an “either-or” situation, FGM (and many other issues) would need to be addressed long before MC.

    What I’ve learned reading here (and other places on the net), however, is that “there’s something horrible going on so let’s not do anything about smaller things before we’ve solved the horrible one” is misguided. And therefore I wonder: why do you come out so strongly in favor of MC?

    The Slate article is thankfully copiously sourced so one can check the statements. I have to admit that I never thought about/looked into sexual pleasure so I skipped those. What I am interested in, and have been for a while, are the medical benefits. As are you, I believe, when you equate MC with practices with proven health benefits:

    Your kid may not want to get a vaccine, but you should probably vaccinate your kid. Your kid doesn’t want disinfectant on that cut, but the cut should get disinfected. Your kid wants to only eat hot dogs every day for the rest of his life, but your kid should probably eat some vegetables.

    When I first read that MC can reduce HIV infections by 60 to 70 percent, my mind was blown: such an easy procedure, such awesome benefits.
    (this statement is also typically flanked by the claim that the researchers terminated the study early because it would have been unethical to withhold the intervention from the control group any longer)
    But the first Slate link is curious: it links to a Time.com piece, which speculates why the prevention of HIV infections might come about but offers as support only another link to an article by the same author, which is about anti-retroviral therapy, not about MC! The other links are similarly indirect.

    The reason that such citation behavior makes me wary is that I ran into a post criticizing the 3 studies on which those claims are best rather convincingly: http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/05/when-bad-science-kills-or-how-to-spread-aids/
    Part of the argument is that MC in those trials also meant enforced abstinence after the procedure, that after-healing check-ups meant more supervision of the treatment group, and that the early termination (for ethical reasons, remember) actually means that effects look inflated.

    And I have to say that the rest of the Slate article doesn’t inspire confidence either:
    - the claim that “circumcision is highly effective in preventing transmission of HPV in men” links to a study the aim of which “was to examine the association between male circumcision and the prevalence of penile HPV infection among HIV-infected men” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22676057)
    - the statement about genital warts links to http://livepage.apple.com/
    - the study about urinary tract infections finds “Assuming equal utility of benefits and harms, net clinical benefit is likely only in boys at high risk of UTI.”
    - its claim that the claim that MC is leading to lower condom use is “emphatically false” is contradicted by the UN itself: http://www.irinnews.org/report/79557/swaziland-circumcision-gives-men-an-excuse-not-to-use-condoms

    I can’t access the full text of the other two PubMed studies but I wonder whether the criticism of the HIV studies possibly applies as well.

    I don’t have strong feelings about MC as a surgical procedure. To repeat, I don’t see it as equal to FGM.
    FGM is immensely harmful and a tool for subjugation.
    I view MC more akin as having a baby’s earlobes pierced – with the difference that the latter is reversible.

    I do have strong feelings about MC as a religious practice. To my knowledge there are no proven benefits to MC, and therefore putting the religious expression of the parents above the right to physical autonomy of the child strikes me as wrong.

    And my interpretation actually shines often through in the arguments of the supporters of MC, whether it’s
    - commenters who went as far as predict a “new exodus of Jews” from Germany if the surpreme court upheld the circumcision ban
    - Mathias Matussek who wrote in Spiegel

    By now, it’s an embarrassment to almost everyone in Germany that, in the grounds for one of its decisions, a regional court in Cologne almost off-handedly declared circumcision — a religious tradition dating back thousands of years — to be illegal.

    - or Donna L and Safiya Outlines in this very thread who implicitly MC opponents of anti-semitism and Islamophobia

    I usually propose the following thought experiment: imagine communist parents who want to have their baby tattooed with an image of Marx’ head – about as useful as MC, born from strong convictions. Would you support it?

    Or, to give it the fig leaf of medical benefit: say I wanna have my baby tattooed with its blood type and Rhesus factor – arguable medical benefit, about as invasive as MC. Would you support it?

    Thanks for reading.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm |

      So you can’t even comprehend why it was so astoundingly and horrifyingly inappropriate for Germany, of all places in the entire world, to try to make infant male circumcision for religious reasons illegal? Wow. I can’t even have a discussion with someone like you.

      1. BigRedGeek
        BigRedGeek September 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm |

        So you can’t even comprehend why it was so astoundingly and horrifyingly inappropriate for Germany, of all places in the entire world, to try to make infant male circumcision for religious reasons illegal?
        Wow. I can’t even have a discussion with someone like you.

        So there’s the funny thing – the German court didn’t try and make religious MC illegal. It tried to make MC illegal – period.

        The “defense” that was mounted against this, however, was mainly that it is an old religious custom and therefore should not be subject to secular law. Now, if you don’t wanna have a discussion with someone who believes that religion doesn’t trump secular law, I can’t help it.
        I can still question how you square this with declaring yourself a feminist, however.

      2. Ghost Orchid
        Ghost Orchid September 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm |

        If you can’t understand how mutilation of genitals of EITHER gender is inappropriate, then it seems that you have more research to do about ethics. Ethics and human rights ALWAYS trumps religion.

    2. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

      Look, I like most of your comment, but I have to echo Donna–you don’t understand why Germany needs to shut its mouth about Jewish religious practices? No. Just no. Even when they tried to ban circumcision in San Francisco, they not only threatened to remove infants from parental custody–far more traumatic to a child than circumcision–but they also circulated a comic book about an evil mohel. And you expect us just to take your word for it that anti-circumcision activism isn’t in bed with anti-semitism?

      Most circumcisions in the US are not done for religious reasons–Jews and Muslims together don’t even make up 3% of the population. So why not focus on all the rest?

      1. BigRedGeek
        BigRedGeek September 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

        Ok, here’s the thing – as a German, born in the East, raised in an anti-fascist tradition, I understand extremely well why Germans shouldn’t judge Jewish customs. Which is, and this opens an entirely different Pandora’s box, why it took me forever until I could formulate what went wrong in the Middle East.

        But: the German court did not judge Jewish or Muslim religious practice. It judged MC performed on children and found that parents’ interests shouldn’t override children’s interests.

        The counterargument that was mounted was that this was a thousand-year old religious practice and it should therefore be exempt from this judgment. So a secular, liberal court decision was countered by a cultural, more explicitly religious, argument.

        The way this counterargument was couched was in terms of anti-semitism or Islamophobia. And this is where you agree with Donna yet try and hide it: when a German, or in more general terms, when a non-Jew/Muslim speaks out against MC, this must be rooted in anti-Semitism/Islamophobia – it can’t simply be an atheist who’d like to see medical research applied w/o cultural blinders.

        I am willing to listen to an argument why someone whose customs are not connected to circumcising religions is biased against MC.
        I refuse to listen to a claim, however, that refuses an atheist German to speak out against MC because he is an atheist German.

        1. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm |

          And this is where you agree with Donna yet try and hide it: when a German, or in more general terms, when a non-Jew/Muslim speaks out against MC, this must be rooted in anti-Semitism/Islamophobia – it can’t simply be an atheist who’d like to see medical research applied w/o cultural blinders.

          You’re incorrect. Not only is that not my position, it is not Donna’s position either. Non-Jews and non-Muslims can certainly speak out against circumcision without it being rooted in antisemitism or Islamophobia. Even individual Germans can. However, Germany, as a nation, and gentile Germans, as a group, have no moral standing whatsoever to condemn or proscribe Jewish customs. They have forfeited whatever legitimacy they may once have had (not a lot). There is no reason on earth why any Jew should extend any benefit of any doubt to them. They do not merit it.

      2. TurelieTelcontar
        TurelieTelcontar September 20, 2013 at 8:08 am |

        I think he doesn’t focus on the rest, because he’s German. And in Germany, there is no routine infant circumcision. It’s either because of a medical indication – not preventative, but because of actually existing phimosis.
        The German constitution grants the right of physical integrity, and interfering with anyone else’s physical integrity is considered assault. The court didn’t try to make circumcision illegal – it found that it is illegal according to the way the law is worded. It’s just that for 60 years no one ever thought of it that way and went to court because of it. Once someone went to court, the court found that the way the law is worded means that religious circumcision is considered assault, as it is an interference with the physical integrity of another person without their consent and without medical necessity.

        In the wake of that finding, a new law was made, making circumcision legal if it is religiously motivated.

        So, a lot of the discussion about these laws was filled with antisemitism and islamophobia, and this needs to be addressed and stopped. On the other hand, I do think it is a very serious issue that we now have a law that says “This action is assault in all other cases, but if you do it for religious reasons it’s okay”.

        1. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

          I think he doesn’t focus on the rest, because he’s German.

          Where are you getting this from? I just took a quick look at his blog, and there’s nothing on there indicating that he’s German that I can see.

        2. TurelieTelcontar
          TurelieTelcontar September 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

          To EG:
          I made an assumption without realizing it, but it was based on the fact that he quoted a one-year-old article from a German magazine, that as far as I can see is not translated into English, and his focusing on religious circumcision.

          I know that the second could be from anti-semitism and islamophobia, but from the tone of the post it seemed to me that he was coming from another cultural background. One where the constitution says that everyone has a right to life and bodily integrity (they are in the same sentence) can only interfered with because of a direct law. And then laws that give parents the right to make medically necessary choices for the children.

          For most Germans, circumcision is something you learn about in religious education, as jewish and muslim traditions. The idea that it is routinely done for medical purposes isn’t even a thing here.

        3. TurelieTelcontar
          TurelieTelcontar September 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

          Sorry for the double post, but I looked some more, because it bugged me that I went with my gut instinct and asserted something, based on flimsy evidence, without even realizing it.
          But in his post from July 25th he posted “we as Germans”, so I was right, he’s German. Still, I hope this teaches me to look for evidence first.

          Also, according to that same law getting your children pierced and/or tattooed is a legal grey area, because legally it is assault to do it to someone, and only legal in cases where the person it is done to agrees. And general opinion is that it is not part of parental rights to allow this for children too young to consent which is for cases like this 14. So, it is done for small children because it’s pretty traditional, but it is now also debated. Legally, if someone goes to court over it, the result should be that having the ears of small children pierced is also illegal. Assault in these cases is just not something that is prosecuted by the state, but something the injured party has to actively report to the police.

    3. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

      I view MC more akin as having a baby’s earlobes pierced – with the difference that the latter is reversible.

      It’s not. If you pierce an infant’s earlobes, and at 17 she decides she doesn’t want her ears pierced, it’s too late. The holes have healed and will remain.

      1. BigRedGeek
        BigRedGeek September 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

        A’ight, then let me refine my position – I feel about MC as I feel about piercing a baby’s or infant’s ear lobes: a procedure that permanently alters the person’s body and is purely for aesthetic/cultural reasons…hence it should not be done until the person can and does agree to it.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

          A’ight, then let me refine my position – I feel about MC as I feel about piercing a baby’s or infant’s ear lobes: a procedure that permanently alters the person’s body and is purely for aesthetic/cultural reasons…hence it should not be done until the person can and does agree to it.

          Can you give some links to blog comment sections upon which you’ve made the anti-ear piercing argument? I mean if you’re equally concerned with both, then surely you must gone on to any number of sites which you don’t normally post on and commented on the ear piercing situation.

    4. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

      You know what, it’s possible to be anti-circ and not be anti-Semitic. I posted a fairly strongly worded comment on the anti-circ side and no one said it was anti-Semitic or Islamophobic.

      You, on the other hand, got on your failtrain and chugged down that failroad. Congratulations.

  25. Why would feminists support male circumcision? | Reality-based World View

    [...] themselves to be supporters of medical pseudoscience). And thus it was with Jill’s post on how inactivists are ruining the debate on circumcision. It’s mainly an extensive quote of and strong show of support for an article at Slate that is [...]

  26. 30ish
    30ish September 19, 2013 at 5:27 am |

    I think the relevant principle is that one shouldn’t irreversibly alter someone’s body without their consent unless it gives them an objective benefit that couldn’t otherwise be attained. The last condition is what I find problematic regarding circumcision: It may very well reduce risk of contracting HIV and other diseases, but it’s not like there aren’t other means to do that, which the person in question can decide upon himself when he’s old enough. Plus, the risk of contracting sexually transmittable diseases typically only comes up when the person is in her teen years: So why not, for example, circumcise 12-year-olds, who can have a say in the matter? The idea that there is a medical need to circumcise babies is just not very well justified.
    That said, I absolutely do oppose intactivitsts derailing every single thread about fgm.

    1. 30ish
      30ish September 19, 2013 at 5:35 am |

      I agree that the philosophical argument from autonomy is more important than the details of the medical benefits/drawbacks of circumcision, however, it is relevant for the question of overriding autonomy whether there is no other way of conferring an objective benefit onto someone who’s unable to consent to an irreversible altering of their body (as in the vaccination case, which is why it’s justifiable there – no other way to protect children from certain diseases). So that’s where medical facts enter the discussion. We need to know whether, like in the case of vaccination, there are benefits to circumcision that only occur if we don’t wait for the person being circumcised being old enough to consent.

  27. Marcie
    Marcie September 19, 2013 at 5:41 am |

    I still can’t believe that feminists could even consider routine infant circumcision to be a valid option.
    Last time I checked, the right to sexual bodily autonomy was one of the cornerstones of feminism.

    I have yet to find an MRA site that promotes, or even discusses the merrits ot tries to justify of even the lightest form of FGM.

    It’s excatly this glaring bigotry that begs for “intactivists” to troll FGM discussions.

    1. Ally S
      Ally S September 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

      There are quite a few MRAs who not only support circumcision, but also FGM. And look at how many people in this thread oppose circumcision.

      1. Ally S
        Ally S September 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

        I mean, the number of people here who oppose infant circumcision is high. Just clarifying.

  28. AllyFogg
    AllyFogg September 19, 2013 at 6:06 am |

    Hi Jill

    First can I say that as a writer on men’s issues, and an opponent of ritual infant circumcision, I never march into debates on FGM and demand to talk about male circumcision instead. I wish ‘intactivists’ would desist from doing that, I don’t think it helps either campaign. I completely agree with the post from Toast above.

    I also agree with the first comment from Jennifer about the Slate piece, it was a dreadful, ill-informed, deliberately confrontational and provocative piece which presented a lot of highly disputable and occasionally downright spurious claims as unchallenged fact. I don’t think anyone can complain that it generated a storm of furious commentary because it quite shamelessly and deliberately poked a hornets’ nest and invited that reaction.

    But if I could take this opportunity to make one point, on the supposed comparisons between FGM and MGM or male circumcision, there is a really important point that is often missed, and has been missed by both you and MJ Stern.

    You cannot compare the practice and medical consequences of FGM, which is almost exclusively conducted under non-sterile, non-clinical conditions by self-appointed practitioners using heaven-knows-what kinds of implements, with male circumcisions conducted in maternity hospitals and clinics in the USA and other developed countries.

    Between a third and a quarter of boys born in the world will be circumcised, and a huge proportion of those procedures are happening in impoverished parts of the developing world, with the exact same problems of sanitation and lack of medical care that apply to girls being mutilated in Somalia or rural Egypt.

    Just occasionally, the consequences of this come to light. For example this summer in just one province of South Africa, 30 boys died and 300 suffered horrible complications (including at least 10 penile amputations) after mass tribal circumcision ceremonies. But most of the time this issue goes completely unnoticed and unremarked. The overall mortality and morbidity rates around the world are completely unknown, because nobody has even attempted to find out. Conservative estimates, based on known post-operative complication rates, are that there are tens of thousands of deaths of baby boys and children globally every year.

    I would plead with men’s activists not to co-opt campaigns against FGM and try to make it all about the men. However on purely humanitarian grounds, I would also ask feminists not to minimize, ignore, dismiss or (as sometimes happens) mock the extent of distress and suffering caused by circumcision of boys around the world. I do think you steer a little bit close to that here.

    If you’ll forgive a plug, I blogged about an example of exactly this happening with a UK politician this week.

    1. DannyChameleon
      DannyChameleon September 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |

      For example this summer in just one province of South Africa, 30 boys died and 300 suffered horrible complications (including at least 10 penile amputations) after mass tribal circumcision ceremonies

      If that is true, then I am against it.

      1. AllyFogg
        AllyFogg September 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

        It’s true and was fairly well publicised in global media. These 30 deaths followed another 34 deaths which happened in May.

        Source

    2. EuropeanMan
      EuropeanMan September 20, 2013 at 1:41 am |

      I would add that there are forms of male genital mutilation far worse than male circumcision as known in the US:

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

      Subincision is widespread among some tribes and involves the splitting of the penis to reveal the urethra. Why is it that the media never talks about that? How is that not MGM?

      1. EG
        EG September 20, 2013 at 10:31 pm |

        Why is it, then, that intactivists are dedicating so much of their outrage to circumcision, then? Surely they, like feminists, have bigger fish to fry?

        Unless in the US they’re privileged dudebros resentful of losing the conversational spotlight for any reason whatsoever, and so appropriating the language of oppression in order to restore the focus to themselves, perhaps? And outside the US…influenced by anti-semitic traditions and current Islamophobia?

  29. Guillaume
    Guillaume September 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |

    Refusing to attribute the factually correct terms to male, female, and intersex genital cutting is offensive and sexist. Refusing to call all the practices as genital mutilation is sexist. Were I to be born intersex-bodied and my gender was forcibly assigned at birth with no choice of my own, I’d view it as mutilation. Were I to be born male-bodied and any part of my genitals forcibly removed without medical necessity, i’d view it as mutilation. Were I to be born female-bodied and any part of my genitals forcibly removed without medical necessity, i’d view it as mutilation. There is no denying that forcible removal of part of the genitals of a person is genital mutilation, regardless of where you fall physically on the binary, or in between. I oppose vehemently genital mutilation of any person, for any reason. I oppose religious rights to mutilate female/male genitals, I oppose cultural reasons and parental rights to mutilate female/male genitals and I most definitely oppose the oppression of intersex people by forcibly assigning their gender.

  30. Guillaume
    Guillaume September 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |

    Also, there should BE no “debate” on genital cutting. It all is a violation of human rights and needs to be protected against with legislation and enforcement. There should be no legal amount of oppression one can withstand at the hands of others, or encouraged. No one’s gender should be forcibly assigned with a scalpel, and no one’s ideals of beauty/religion/culture/sexual control should be forced on someone else, NOT EVEN THEIR OWN CHILDREN!

  31. Magpie
    Magpie September 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |

    I truly don’t understand how anyone could defense genital cutting of infants in any way. There might be studies on each side, but reality shows that there are no valid health benefits: Europe doesn’t wound infants after birth and we have less UTI’s, less infections, less penile cancer rates, less infant deaths and less STD’s than cutting eager USA.
    On the contrary, circumsised men are more prone to STD’s because they are less likely to use condoms: either due to the lack of feeling or because they are fooled to think they are safe now!
    You should really follow the example of the European Women’s Rights organisation “Terre de Femmes” who is as much disgusted about RIC as any educated and ethical doctor here. They fight against MGM as much as against FGM.
    And if you would be a bit educated here, you would know that the Type 1a (removal of the clitoral hood/prepuce) of FGM is the exact counterpart of male circumcision and that even the less invasive form (clitoral prick) is illegal while the irreversible and very invasive act on male babies is still legal!
    Finally, some men have the guts and the backbone to stand up and fight for their rights and you ridicule them the same way as men used to ridicule women back then, this is mere revenge and disgusting.
    There are no benefits on infant (!) circumcision, only harm and danger.
    No doctor in his right mind can even recommend it considering all the cons, here is a statement of real doctors protesting against this barbaric rite.
    And they don’t even mention the stress the baby goes through during this procedure (not able to metabolize proper pain meds, they harm liver and kidney!), the painful wound healing for days (in soiled diapers, risk of MRSA infection) and the psychological effect of pain in the genitals being the first feeling the brain receives after being born (neurotransmitter shooting in a growing brain!).
    I also think it is questioning (if not perverted) to force the look of an erect penis onto a baby or child! Naturally, the glans is only seen when erect.
    This prooves how perverted the advocates of child circumcision really are!
    And if someone truly belives, it would have sexual benefits (which is actually illogical considering which was lost (highly innervated tissue with huge blood vessels) and also considering the male anatomy!), he can still do it when grown up. Much safer, less painful and VOLUNTARILY.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm |

      I also think it is questioning (if not perverted) to force the look of an erect penis onto a baby or child! Naturally, the glans is only seen when erect. This prooves how perverted the advocates of child circumcision really are!

      You’re a European, right? Do you realize that you just called the vast majority of Jews perverts? Am I surprised? No.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

        Also, the comparison is revolting. There’s no resemblance.

      2. Christina
        Christina September 20, 2013 at 5:19 am |

        Um, are you suggesting that all Europeans are anti-Semitic Donna? Because if so: wow.

        1. EG
          EG September 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

          Do you know much about European history with respect to Jews? It does not cover Europe with glory.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L September 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

          Obviously not. Your misreading is so obvious that I can only conclude that it’s willful.

          I am not surprised that a gentile European would be oblivious to the historical anti-Semitic associations of their rhetoric. That is not — or should not be — a controversial statement.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm |

          Dude, I have only the most rudimentary understanding of European history re: Jews, and even I really have to say…

          …yes, historically.

    2. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm |

      men used to ridicule women back then

      When did men stop, pray tell? Was it ten minutes ago and I just haven’t noticed yet?

      the psychological effect of pain in the genitals being the first feeling the brain receives after being born (neurotransmitter shooting in a growing brain!)

      Calm yourself. It’s not. The first feeling it receives is cold (air at room temperature compared to warmth inside the womb), followed usually swiftly by swaddling and cuddling, and then nursing.

      I also think it is questioning (if not perverted) to force the look of an erect penis onto a baby or child! Naturally, the glans is only seen when erect.
      This prooves how perverted the advocates of child circumcision really are!

      Do you understand what the word “proves” actually means? In any event, I can assure you that a child’s flaccid circumcised penis looks nothing like an adult’s erect penis, circumcised or not. Do you have any idea how insulting what you’ve just said is to children who have been molested? Let alone, as Donna points out, Jews and Muslims (though as she also alludes to, the charge of sexual perversion is one that has been traditionally levelled at both groups by gentiles, so perhaps it is no surprise).

      1. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom September 20, 2013 at 9:12 am |

        I can assure you that a child’s flaccid circumcised penis looks nothing like an adult’s erect penis, circumcised or not.

        For that matter, an infant’s erect penis, whether circumcised or no, looks nothing like an adult’s erect penis. And, believe me, if you’ve had two male babies and a friend’s had two male babies, you’ve seen erect infant penises many, many times.

  32. TomSims
    TomSims September 19, 2013 at 10:51 am |

    @Jill

    Thanks for the topic. I’m a 66 year old man and circumcised and very happy about it. Thanks Mom and Dad. James Dixon and his band [sexist language removed - mod] can go fuck themselves!

    1. Thomas
      Thomas September 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

      Now that’s a clear cut case of trolling. [no pun intended]

      1. SkyTracer
        SkyTracer September 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm |

        Nah, given TomSim’s posting history (ahem), I’m thinking Tom just couldn’t resist letting Jill know all about what a manly, non-whiny, studly owner-of-dick he thinks he is.

        From one dude to another, TomSims, I think you should spend less time feeling superior to inactivists and more time contemplating the ways in which male privilege influences your decision-making process.

    2. CircEsAdreim
      CircEsAdreim September 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

      “Why Most Circumcised Men Seem [i.e. *THINK* they're] Satisfied:
      http://www.circumcision.org/satisfied.htm

  33. Koffeewitch
    Koffeewitch September 19, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    Hello all. Radical feminist intactivist here. You might actually be surprised at the number of women who make up the intactivist movement. One guy called it something like “the amazon granola-woman’s cyber bullying movement”. WHY do women also care about this issue so much? For one thing, HOW can we ever expect men to be fully integrated and compassionate beings if we violate their genitals in infancy? Also, genital mutilation really is an issue that affects waaaay more male victims than female victims. In people’s minds, FGM is genital mutilation but MGM is just good hygiene and good business? There is no reason to separate genital mutilation by type or by sex of the victim. The progressive stance is that ALL FORMS OF GENITAL MUTILATION ARE WRONG. You will never succeed in getting rid of FGM if you don’t also fight MGM and the violence also done to intersex children (where the parents or a doctor *chooses* the child’s sex for them. This article has also done every feminist intactivist an enormous disservice. Because of women like you, we have to constantly fight for respect within the intactivist community. Did you even bother to check the “facts” of Stern’s troll article? He is bothered because we do have science, truth and compassion on our side. Quoting an article that mocks human rights activists is really unconscienable.

    1. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

      HOW can we ever expect men to be fully integrated and compassionate beings if we violate their genitals in infancy?

      Sure. You can tell this is true because of all the well-known campaigns of brutal, non-compassionate violence Jewish men inflicted on gentiles across Europe through the last several hundred years.

      I dunno, women have succeeded in being compassionate despite a shit-ton of violation across our life-span. Why are you giving American men an out for their behavior?

      1. Miranda
        Miranda September 20, 2013 at 12:51 am |

        That line was one of the single weirdest things I’ve read on this site in a while. Just…huh?

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 21, 2013 at 4:49 am |

        I wonder how those circumcised men who are compassionate, fully integrated (whatever the hell that means, and if it’s even possible for any human being) people managed it?

  34. Jessica
    Jessica September 19, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    I’m a feminist because I believe men and women are equal. I’m also an advocate for genital autonomy, because I believe no one deserves to have someone else’s beliefs or preferences carved into their body. I don’t understand how calling for equal protection of all children from genital cutting ‘ruins the debate’. There is no culture that cuts their girls that doesn’t also cut their boys. When male circumcision became popular in the US as a punishment for masturbation, doctors quickly began advocating it for girls as wellWe will never end female circumcision if we continue to uphold male circumcision as a ‘good’ thing.

    1. Drahill
      Drahill September 19, 2013 at 11:30 am |

      believe no one deserves to have someone else’s beliefs or preferences carved into their body.

      I am genuinely curious – how far does this extend for you? Do you feel such a strong reaction to seeing infant girls with pierced ears? I often wonder about this, because from a purely logical standpoint, the two are fairly close. Piercing your daughter’s ears at a time when she cannot consent is “carving somebody else’s preferences into [her] body,” no? The piercing procedure is fairly harmless, although it is unpleasant (the women I know who have done it all confirm that the baby does cry, or at least wince – it’s safe to say the experience is not pleasant). The piercings are fairly easy to infect (since baby will probably want to touch them), so it is not without risk.

      So I am genuinely curious – because I have met more than a few people who profess to care deeply about infant bodily autonomy (via circumcision) but who have never considered baby piercing with such fervor, and that has always struck me as slightly inconsistent.

      1. DannyChameleon
        DannyChameleon September 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm |

        Do you feel such a strong reaction to seeing infant girls with pierced ears?

        For me, yes.

      2. EG
        EG September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

        I can’t speak for anybody else, but I really dislike the practice of piercing infants’ ears for just the same reason, to the same degree.

        1. Drahill
          Drahill September 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm |

          EG, I agree. I would not pierce my daughter’s ears until she was old enough to choose it, because that is my preference. However, I also know that baby piercing is common in some cultures (from my limited experience, most of the people I’ve met who do it are Latina or of Hispanic heritage, but I’m sure there are others).

          For me, I wish more intactivists would be honest. I’m noticed that most of them tend to couch their opposition to RIC as a matter of non-consent and human rights. But if that is really true, why is there no equally aggressive presence devoted to other cosmetic alterations of babies (such as piercing)? If people oppose circumcision, that is a perfectly fine stance in and of itself. But I’m wary of the “non-consent” angle of the argument for that reason. You don’t see most of the same people who whip into a fervor over RIC getting all hot and bothered over baby piercing – even though it can have its own side effects. I see that as a logical inconsistency on their parts sometimes.

        2. Ghost
          Ghost September 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

          How cute of you to pretend you’re not aware of how offensive you’re being in equating ear piercing with the excision of roughly fifty percent of the skin from the distal, business end of the penis; a more apposite comparison would be excision of the ear(s). It’s not a crime to be ignorant of male sexual anatomy and response, but please stop arrogantly assuming you know anything much about how I experience sex, and why I experience it the way I do. I don’t pontificate to you about your body, and you don’t pontificate to me about mine, right? Truce?

          Also, it’s amusing to see how sensitive people are being about using the word ‘mutilation’ to describe male circumcision. What about the feelings of circumcised men? Oh, someone please think of their feeelings! Where does this sensitivity go when you’re telling circumcised women that their parents mutilated them? How do you think they feel when you tell them they’ll never experience orgasm and have no capacity for sexual pleasure? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make them feel beautiful, nor welcome in ‘feminist spaces’. The hypocrisy of you lot. Honestly…

        3. Drahill
          Drahill September 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

          Ghost – If you weren’t defended by the woosh of the point going over your head, allow me to explain:

          If you oppose circumcision on human rights grounds, there is little substantial difference between it and ritual piercing. I get the impression that for you, this is solely a matter of degree, which says to me that you’re totally logically inconsistent. You just oppose circumcision because it personally offends you. Not because of any particular rights of the infant or anything like that. You just don’t like the procedure itself.

          And why are you going off on a screed that circumcised men cannot orgasm? At the risk of being TMI, my husband is circumcised and he has plenty of orgasms (our child is a testament to that). If you really believe that circumcised men don’t orgasm, how would you explain the seemingly prodigious birthrate among Orthodox Jews (almost all of whom, I can safely safe, are lacking foreskin)? If I had to make a judgment call, I’d say that they seem to be very much enjoying themselves sexually.

        4. Kath
          Kath September 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm |

          Who said anything about circumcised men not being able to orgasm? Perhaps you’re revealing your contempt for men in general and their sexuality in particular by assuming that there can be no substantial differences with respect to quality of sexual life between any two men capable of ejaculating.

          People generally oppose circumcision because they perceive it to be harmful, for a whole variety of reasons. This, surely, is not too abstract a point to grasp.

          If you oppose circumcision on human rights grounds, there is little substantial difference between it and ritual piercing.

          No, I don’t think that follows. I oppose lots of things ‘on human rights grounds’ (as I’m sure you do); nevertheless, we can all agree that some abuses are worse than others.

          I get the impression that for you, this is solely a matter of degree, which says to me that you’re totally logically inconsistent.

          That’s interesting. If not a matter of degree, just how does cutting a boy’s genitals differ from cutting a girl’s? If you’re not opposed to ear piercing (that is, if you’d not have it criminalised), just how do you justify prohibiting non-therapeutic surgical alterations of the genitals of female minors? I think you oppose ‘female genital mutilation’ just because it personally offends you. Not because of any particular rights of the infant or anything like that. You just don’t like the procedure(s) themselves.

          In your other comments, you reveal your desperation to legitimise this harmful traditional practice, at all costs.

          My problem with intactivists is that they, largely, are unable to appreciate that there are places where circumcision might be useful.

          On the contrary, people like yourself, who would appear willing to justify circumcision (of boys, at least) for any reason, would carry on as though the entire world were a brothel in Zambia, and every vulnerable male minor one of its patrons.

          It is absolutely true that in First World, developed nations like the US and many parts of Europe, circumcision for non-religious reasons is largely unecessary.

          Not largely unnecessary — it is unnecessary. You’ll die if you don’t have a necessary operation, as a result of your not having had it; as uncircumcised men (women, too) exist and live very rich, full lives in Europe, Latin America, Japan (and countless other places — I think there may even be some uncircumcised men in the United States), we can deduce, mercifully, that circumcision is not a necessary operation.

          You also seem to miss that circumcision as a preventive tool isn’t being bandied about too much in the US anymore by professionals.

          This is arrant nonsense. While it’s perhaps an eccentricity of mine that I happen to think that even African children (boys included) have a right to not have the best parts of their genitals cut off, research in Africa, where you argue circumcision could conceivably be of use (for high-risk males, plausibly), has been used to legitimise cutting boys everywhere. The 2012 AAP statement was based pretty much entirely on the African HIV research; even the cherry-picked nonsense about HSV-2 and HPV is just padding.

      3. tmc
        tmc September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

        I personally did not choose to pierce my daughter’s ears until she could decide for herself if she wanted them.

        1. tmc
          tmc September 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |

          Hmm, I feel like my wording there is confusing so here’s a rewording: We didn’t pierce my daughter’s ears. I want her to decide.

      4. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune September 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

        Speaking as someone whose ears were ritually pierced in infancy, I can tell you that my mother was traumatised by it (I wasn’t numbed in any way), and wishes she’d resisted my grandparents on the matter.

        1. Drahill
          Drahill September 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

          Mac, I think that sort of makes my point. There are certainly women (and men) out there who were ritually pierced as babies or small children without consent who were traumatized or suffered for the experience. However, there is not a large online presence of people who leap to defend these people and support them, and I often wonder why. Many intactivists couch their opposition to RIC in the language of non-consent and leaving the baby’s body unaltered. However, if what they profess is true, then wouldn’t they logically find ritual piercing objectionable on the same grounds and contest it just as vigourously? I’d hope so – because I see many similarities. But there isn’t much of a movement for ritual piercing and questioning that.

      5. Alara Rogers
        Alara Rogers September 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm |

        I personally consider piercing a baby’s ears to be repugnant. I would not let my own daughter get her ears pierced until she was 12, despite repeated pleas, because I do not believe a child’s judgement is developed enough to make that decision until then. And I don’t believe a child should ever, for any reason, have her ears pierced because her *parents* think it’s a good idea. If she’s nagging and begging for it, let her do it when she’s 12, but if she has never expressed an interest, do not pressure her to do it. (This happened to me when I was 12. I didn’t want my ears pierced but couldn’t stand up to my mom. My holes have closed since, after years of painful earlobe infections.)

        I don’t consider infant ear piercings to be anywhere near the same ballpark as infant circumcisions, and I don’t consider male circumcisions done under sterile conditions to be anywhere near the same ballpark as female genital mutilation done with poor medical care, but yes, they are all violations of bodily autonomy and if I were queen of the world, no minor reversible procedure could be performed on children under 12 for cosmetic reasons and no irreversible procedure could be performed on children under 18 without very strong evidence of medical benefit. Vaccines have such strong evidence. Circumcision does not.

        I also do not believe that religion gives you the right to perform irreversible procedures on children. Let the child decide for themselves when they are an adult. The Jewish religion supports performing the bris on adult men who convert; why not perform it on adult male Jews all the time, instead of on baby boys who can’t give consent?

        I’m very much in favor of preserving the bodily autonomy of *all* children until they are old enough to make choices, and “old enough” should vary depending on the reversibility and severity of the choice. There are choices that are irreversible and severe that I could see allowing a child to make simply because the consequences of waiting until adulthood are equally severe; for instance, if a trans girl who had identified as trans since she was 4 and had been living as a girl the entire time and who was very distressed at being misidentified as a boy requested to have her testicles removed before she hit puberty so that her body would not masculinize, I would support that because if she can’t make the decision until she’s 18, it’s going to be too late for her bone structure, height and voice, and possibly other features as well. But she’d have to be *damn sure* of the decision to make it at 12, because it’s irreversible.

        Circumcision is not a choice that can’t be put off. There’s no difference between circumcising a 12 year old and circumcising an 18 year old, and both are better able to make decisions for themselves than a newborn infant can. Likewise, no baby girl was ever harmed by being unable to wear earrings. If a choice can be safely put off until later in life, it should be.

        But none of this is equivalent to genital mutilation. And so, discussions of genital mutilation should not be overrun by anti-circumcision advocates (where “genital mutilation” refers to the removal of most or all of the pleasure-inducing external organs of the genitalia, or the removal of any such organs under unsanitary conditions, and “circumcision” refers to the removal of the foreskin of the penis under Western medical conditions), just as discussion of circumcision shouldn’t actually be overrun by anti-piercing-baby-ears advocates.

        1. Drahill
          Drahill September 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm |

          But Alara, I think you may have missed my point. The fact that ritual piercing is not physically analagous to circumcision is besides the point. The point is that, if we accept the premise that it is wrong to cosmetically alter or change an infant’s body without their consent, then even a minor process like piercing is ethically wrong because it cosmetic, it does permanently change the body (by creating scar tissue, even a tiny amount) and is done non-consentually. Thus, your comparison is really beside the point.

          And you are technically not correct in stating that circumcision is a “now or never” procedure. Adult circumcision is entirely possible and done with some frequency. It is often more involved and recovery is longer, but a number of men do elect to do it each year.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L September 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

          if a trans girl who had identified as trans since she was 4 and had been living as a girl the entire time and who was very distressed at being misidentified as a boy requested to have her testicles removed before she hit puberty so that her body would not masculinize, I would support that because if she can’t make the decision until she’s 18, it’s going to be too late for her bone structure, height and voice, and possibly other features as well. But she’d have to be *damn sure* of the decision to make it at 12, because it’s irreversible.

          Please don’t compare circumcision to an orchiectomy, in any way, even for rhetorical purposes. They don’t belong in the same conversation. No matter how

          Also: this doesn’t, and never would, happen, and to suggest that it would ever even be a possibility is to play into the hands of transphobes who are continually suggesting that this sort of thing does happen. Reversible hormone blockers? Absolutely. Orchiectomy? No.

        3. EG
          EG September 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

          Alara doesn’t say it’s now or never. She says the opposite: “Circumcision is not a choice that can’t be put off.”

      6. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl September 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

        In my mind, there is little difference between infant ear piercing and RIC. It’s still permanently altering a child’s body without their consent and prior to the age where they are even capable of consenting. Also? Minor sexism related nitpick; ear piercing doesn’t necessarily equal a practice visited solely upon infant girls.

        Ultimately, they are neither one a practice that must be done in infancy. And both can wait until such time as the child can chose for themselves what they want to do. But once done, they can never be undone, thus, wait until the ear/penis owner is capable of deciding for themselves.

      7. khw
        khw September 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm |

        I really am not on board with the whole little-girls-with-pierced-ears thing. For me it’s totally an issue of body autonomy.

        I say this as someone who chose to have the traditional earlobe piercing (when I was 13 after a long fight with my mother!), plus other piercings.

      8. Alphabet
        Alphabet September 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm |

        I don’t think it is fair to dismiss someone’s activism because they have not been activists on every comparable issue. I would guess that folks opposed to MIC would also be opposed to female infant ear piercing if you asked them. The issue they are currently focusing on is MIC. Feminists are accused all the time of not being valid because they are protesting one issue but *not every issue* of importance to women. Likewise, many environmentalists focus on a particular issue, like water quality, but this doesn’t mean they don’t care about air quality.

        If there was a movement against female infant ear piercing, I would guess the anti-MIC crowd would support them. Just because they haven’t started the movement themselves doesn’t prove anything.

        For myself, I am opposed to both.

        1. Drahill
          Drahill September 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm |

          The problem is that, in theory, the movement against ritual piercing already exists in the language of the anti-circ movement. Most anti-circ activists I’ve encountered say that their objections are rooted in personal autonomy and human rights – but if that’s true, they should feel equally as strongly about piercing. That is the equivalent of an activist who preaches against racism when it comes to one race but who can walk right past racial harassment of another race and ignore it. Frankly, there are plenty of discussions about piercing infants – a short Google search confirms that. And most of them fail to generate more than a few comments – and never the kind of heated discussion circumcision gets. But these conversations are often appearing on the exact same websites – so there is little excuse for ignoring them, especially if one claims to be as passionate about infant rights. But they are largely ignored – why? I think that’s because largely, anti-circ advocacy is driven by men who don’t really much care about females, but that’s just me.

  35. Anonymous mom
    Anonymous mom September 19, 2013 at 11:20 am |

    We decided to circumcise our infant son because we were overwhelmed with fear about his future. We figured that we have the advanced medical technology and its been a routine procedure for ages… However, now two months later I am overwhelmed with guilt, sadness, and a more profound fear, fear that our son will grow to hate us and himself! All this information about child abuse and mutilation is too much to take! It’s no wonder many mothers take their own lives.

    1. Toast
      Toast September 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

      Relax. Some of us feel strongly about it, but most men don’t care – and honestly, if that’s the only thing your kid can come up with to be pissed off at you about, count yourself lucky.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L September 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm |

      You did what you thought was best. Please don’t berate yourself. And please remember that it never even occurs to the overwhelming — and I do mean overwhelming — majority of circumcised men to be unhappy or complain about it, let alone hate themselves or their parents. My 23-year old son may have his complaints about his parents, but I promise you that that isn’t one of them. The grossly overheated rhetoric surrounding this issue notwithstanding.

    3. EuropeanMan
      EuropeanMan September 20, 2013 at 1:59 am |

      What you will do, when your son grows up, if he brings up the topic, you will apologize to him. We all make mistakes. And this is not your fault. It’s the system’s fault and he will recognize that.

      Please, see somebody who can help you. There are psychologists specialized on the psychological harm of circumcision and I’m sure they can help moms, too.

    4. Alphabet
      Alphabet September 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

      The decisions you face as a parent when your child is born are overwhelming! My husband and I felt lucky that we did not have to face this choice (our child was born female) because we would have gotten a lot of pressure from family and doctors and it would have been incredibly difficult.

      Your baby is going to thrive because you are clearly thoughtful and caring. You do your best, then you move forward and try your best again. Don’t feel guilty!

  36. Drahill
    Drahill September 19, 2013 at 11:22 am |

    My problem with intactivists is that they, largely, are unable to appreciate that there are places where circumcision might be useful. They tend to not appreciate nuance and changing circumstances. For example:

    It is absolutely true that in First World, developed nations like the US and many parts of Europe, circumcision for non-religious reasons is largely unecessary. STD prevention information is plentiful and most men have access to condoms and the ability to use them. However, I have rarely met an intactivist who will acknowledge that in other parts of the world – largely, Sub-Saharan Africa, this is not the case. HIV is rampant. Large scale condom use is not likely for some time, for a variety of factors – chief among them is because many parts of the contient have been strongly influenced by fundamentalism, which discourages condom use. By and large, large-class condom use in some parts of the world won’t be feasible for some time, by many estimates. In situations such as these, promoting circumcision to vulnerable populations is likely a net positive. But I rarely encounter opponents of the practice who are willing to conceed that circumcision can be a positive for some groups outside of the US. Which to me sort of indicates that the movement is largely US-ian in their advocacy.

    1. Toast
      Toast September 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      And that’s why I don’t count myself among intactivist ranks, despite being strongly opposed. There’s no comparison between adult, voluntary male circumcision to prevent HIV in Africa and routine infant circumcision in the US – the former is very likely a good public policy decision, and I think people would take intactivists more seriously if they acknowledged that. I would agree that most anti-circumcision activism is US-centric, but that’s partly because of the uniqueness of circumcision practices in the US when compared to other western nations.

      One nitpick though:

      circumcision for non-religious reasons is largely unecessary

      Circumcision for religious reasons is also unnecessary. People’s religious freedoms should not extend to irreversible involuntary body modification.

  37. zaebos
    zaebos September 19, 2013 at 11:35 am |

    “However on purely humanitarian grounds, I would also ask feminists not to minimize, ignore, dismiss or (as sometimes happens) mock the extent of distress and suffering caused by circumcision of boys around the world.”

    This. It’s entirely possible to attack derailers without, ya know, making light of, chuckling at, or scoffing at something that might actually be pretty fucking terrible for someone.

    Just say’n.

    1. Fishing for Insults
      Fishing for Insults September 21, 2013 at 12:21 am |

      It’s not that terrible.

      I’m no advocate of circumcision, because it is unnecessary; but it’s really not that big a deal.

      Some folks just need a reason to feel sorry for themselves, and I’m going to keep on chuckling at them.

  38. Karen Goldis
    Karen Goldis September 19, 2013 at 11:41 am |

    Intactivists are against circumcision of both genders. In the US, it is already illegal to circumcise females, so we put more effort into abolishing male circumcision here.
    What one needs to realize when speaking against FGM is that it will never end until male circumcision is addressed alongside.
    Ending circumcision is not gender specific.

    It is irrelevant what one considers “worse”.

    1. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

      What one needs to realize when speaking against FGM is that it will never end until male circumcision is addressed alongside.

      Evidence? Or even a rationale?

      1. Willemina
        Willemina September 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

        I think the case can be made that reaction to Western neocolonial packaging of FGM opposition alongside attempts to replace traditional male circumcision rituals with Western medical intervention feeds an oppositional dynamic that isn’t good. Circumcision is hugely important culturally in parts of Africa, but I really disagree with the broad strokes that paint pubescent male circumcision in Africa and neonatal circumcison in the US and FGM or FGC practices all into the same corner.

  39. acantholycosa
    acantholycosa September 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

    I’m sorry, but cutting a child’s genitals ANY CHILD regardless of gender is not something people should keep defending. It is warped. It’s horrible to cut girls, no one is denying that, but it’s hypocritical to harp about the evils of female genital mutilation and then had your son over to be cut without his consent. This is not an unreasonable position. We could be living in the kind of country where putting carbolic acid on girls’ genitals is considered completely acceptable. (Study the history of non-religious circumcision and realise it was pushed by a person who suggested stopping girls from masturbating by putting carbolic acid on their genitals. No sort of genital cutting on minors that isn’t medically necessary is acceptable!)

  40. Dreamer
    Dreamer September 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

    I appreciate that you admit that there should be a discussion over male circumcision. In fact, my belief is that there should be an integral debate on the issue of genital cutting of minors (males, females, intersex). Genital cutting is not a matter of gender, it’s a matter of control, it’s a children’s issue.

    Mark Joseph Stern says in the text you quoted: “None of intactivists’ cornerstone beliefs are based in reality or science”. I’ll give you facts that he can’t deny:

    * Circumcision damages or completely removes the frenulum. This is important because circumcised males who still retain their frenulum, and even intact males, consider it to be their “g spot”. Those males who had it damaged or removed have lost their “g spot”.

    * Circumcision removes the ridged band. The ridged band was described by John Taylor, Canadian Pathologist, as a “intensely vascular” and “richly innervated” which “appears to be an important component of the overall sensory mechanism of the human penis”.

    * Circumcision restricts the skin mobility of the penis. This has been noted by circumcision promoters as well. This is important because the mobility serves a mechanical function, that is to allow the foreskin to glide over the glans during sex.

    * Circumcision allows for gradual keratinization of the glans. This has been noted by circumcision promoters and opponents and is documented in encyclopedias. Whether the keratinization (hardening and drying) of the surface of the glans has an effect or not on sexuality is a different matter, but the phenomenon itself is objectively verifiable.

    These are facts that are rarely discussed by circumcision promoters and apologists, such as Mark Joseph Stern, who appears to have a personal bias for circumcision. One clear demonstration is that you won’t find the words “frenulum”, “ridged band”, “mobility”, “keratinization”, “Meissner” and not even the word “condom” in reference to HIV prevention, in the totality of the AAP’s Technical Report on Circumcision.

  41. Another Jennifer
    Another Jennifer September 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm |

    I don’t think intactivists are “ruining” anything. When they stray from good information and reasoned debate (and they frequently do, in my opinion), it is obvious to the critical reader. There are uninformed passionate opinions on many issues and it’s the task of those who want information to reason through this. I would agree that many intactivists add more heat than light to the discussion, but so does this blog post and Stern’s article on Slate. Equating those against circumcision in the US with those against vaccines? I don’t think so. Stern’s evidence that intactivists are “winning the online battle?” None, except their existence. Stern’s reference in his first paragraph to “the rare rational and informed circumcision article?” A link to a polemic by Hanna Rosin (of the recent patriarchy is dead argument) making her best case for why parents should circumcise.

    I’m a parent who decided several years ago not to circumcise my USian infant son based on starting from a position of not being sure what the right answer was and looking for evidence one way or the other. There wasn’t at the time and I think still isn’t enough evidence to convince me it is the right thing to do (my son will be free to make his own decision on this without any judgment from me; it is his body). And no, I will not pierce my kids’ ears and don’t particularly like seeing young kids with piercings, though I also believe it is not equivalent to circumcision (generally, piercings can be removed leaving the tissue mostly intact).

    When I was looking for information on circumcision I felt like there was serious overreaching on both sides and it was hard to find good information, but it is there in the medical journals (and sometimes not there—e.g., I found the time horizon in most of the research on complications was very short—doesn’t mean that there are tons of complications, but it does mean that assertions about their rarity is a bit suspect).

    I am not an intactivist because, despite the decision I reached based on my social context (i.e., no religious prescriptions), my impression from my research is that circumcision in the US isn’t that big a deal either way and I have other social justice priorities. From what I know now (I’m not that up to date since my decision point is gone) I would object if it were made mandatory (I support vaccines being mandatory, and am an enthusiastic vaccinator of myself and my kids); I would not support a ban. I would support allowing insurance to pay for the procedure. I do not support arguments linking male circumcision with FGM or referring to male circumcision generally as mutilation as that is disrespectful of circumcised men who do not feel they have been mutilated. If someone feels they have been mutilated, I support their right to define that for themselves.

  42. Tim
    Tim September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

    As to the point of the OP, the intactivist derailing of discussions about FGM, the obsessiveness goes even beyond that. Some time ago, my partner wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper in response to some article or other letter. The topic was racial discrimination and had to do with many white peoples’ attitudes toward black people and their treatment of them. This was back when the local paper still insisted on full addresses for letter writers. After the letter was published, we got a flurry of odd bits of snailmail. One of them was a long, handwritten letter from an intactivist (didn’t know the term then) with a pamphlet detailing the many horrors of male circumcision.

    I mean, my partner’s letter was about race discrimination. The intactivist letter was like saying, “racism? yeah, yeah, but, male circumcision is the most important human rights issue.”

  43. Dominique
    Dominique September 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

    I really thought the point of this post was how one group of people derailed another. Personally, as a woman, I was born without a foreskin and do not wish to comment on anyone’s dick or sensitivities thereof. I *also*, however, do not fucking appreciate the trolling of men who come in to impose their own issues when we, as women, are debating FGM – which is exactly what this post is trying to explain, as far as I can tell. I may have opinions as a woman as to what I prefer in men’s dicks, but that’s a separate article altogether.

    1. DannyChameleon
      DannyChameleon September 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

      Bullshit cissexism.

      1. SkyTracer
        SkyTracer September 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm |

        I’m missing it. Would you mind elaborating?

        1. Willemina
          Willemina September 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

          Trans woman w/ foreskin here!

          ;)

        2. DannyChameleon
          DannyChameleon September 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

          In a discussion about circumcision and FGM, it’s bound to happen that in some comments genitals = gender, but this one seemed especially egregious to me.

  44. Maria
    Maria September 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

    Jill, I think you are right to question the autonomy of circumcision, but your comparison to vaccines is sloppy. Child circumcision does not provide any measurable benefit that can’t be achieved in any other way, meaning it doesn’t meet the requirements needed for proxy consent. I have blogged extensively on the intersection of child circumcision and feminist theory, and I think you might benefit from reading some of my articles. Here’s a few:
    Circumcision IS a Feminist Cause
    Silencing Male Victims of Genital Mutilation

    This is also a great article from Miriam Pollack which discusses circumcision as a product of Patriarchy, although it’s mostly in the context of Brit Milah. A good read, nonetheless
    Circumcision: Gender, Identity and Power

    And if you have access, this scholarly article discusses that circumcision is the male identifier in a patriarchal society, making Foreskin a Feminist Issue.

    No medical organisation anywhere in the world recommends the procedure (unlike vaccines), and nearly every single country that has a policy statement on the surgery (except the USA) acknowledges human rights and medical ethics, acknowledges the benefits don’t outweigh the risks, and encourages doctors to uphold their hippocratic oath and dissuade parents from cutting the genitals of their children.

    I hope you can re-evaluate your ethnocentric views that are inconsistent with Feminist Theory and values.

  45. Maria
    Maria September 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

    Jill, I think you are right to question the autonomy of circumcision, but your comparison to vaccines is sloppy. Child circumcision does not provide any measurable benefit that can’t be achieved in any other way, meaning it doesn’t meet the requirements needed for proxy consent. I have blogged extensively on the intersection of child circumcision and feminist theory, and I think you might benefit from reading some of my articles. Here’s a few:
    Circumcision IS a Feminist Cause
    Silencing Male Victims of Genital Mutilation

    This is also a great article from Miriam Pollack which discusses circumcision as a product of Patriarchy, although it’s mostly in the context of Brit Milah. A good read, nonetheless
    Circumcision: Gender, Identity and Power

    And if you have access, this scholarly article discusses that circumcision is the male identifier in a patriarchal society, making http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08164640902852415#.UjtAT2Q4UWw

    No medical organisation anywhere in the world recommends the procedure (unlike vaccines), and nearly every single country that has a policy statement on the surgery (except the USA) acknowledges human rights and medical ethics, acknowledges the benefits don’t outweigh the risks, and encourages doctors to uphold their hippocratic oath and dissuade parents from cutting the genitals of their children.

    I hope you can re-evaluate your ethnocentric views that are inconsistent with Feminist Theory and values.

  46. Donna L
    Donna L September 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

    Personally, I think the Pollack article is a combination of rather outrageous New Agey/gender essentialist gobbledygook, and statements that are ludicrously untrue. Whatever one thinks about the merits of infant male circumcision.


    The wounding of circumcision irreversibly alters both mother and child: the mother is fractured at the base of her deepest womb-wisdom, which knows that she must protect her child no matter what; and the baby, shocked and traumatized, is fractured in his ability to absolutely trust the protective arms of the mother he has biologically and innately turned to as his primordial source of safety.

    Womb-wisdom. Please.

    Many of us Jews are capable of witnessing a bris, that is, a ritual circumcision, looking into the eyes of the shocked, terrified, and shrieking baby, his head flailing and chin quivering, as his foreskin is severed from the delicate surface of the glans, cut, and crushed, and many of us conclude that this is no different from a routine infant protest of having a wet diaper changed.

    This is a fucking lie. Especially when a local numbing agent is used, which is increasingly common.

    1. Koffeewitch
      Koffeewitch September 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

      What, exactly, is a lie? That the baby experiences in trauma from having the prepuce ripped from where it is fused onto the glans, crushed to prevent hemorrhage and cut off? I’ve watched a lot of training videos that doctors make for medical students. It seems bizarre to me that they would choose to use wailing, screaming, hyperventilating infants for these babies when people tell me that *babies really don’t experience trauma at all*. Where is your source that more doctors are using pain relief? Certainly more health organizations are recommending it, but generally doctors feel that it takes too long and it’s difficult and dangerous to use adequate pain control on a small infant.

      1. Willemina
        Willemina September 21, 2013 at 2:04 am |

        Gotta second this. Topical agents, and some injectables are sometimes used but not always. Pain tolerance and reaction varies a lot by individual as well, so universalizing anecdotes doesn’t pan out across the entire population.

        Not the case with your son’s bris of course, but clamp-like medical devices rarely see the benefit of analgesics or anesthetic, trading ease and speed for longer lower level discomfort.

    2. EG
      EG September 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

      That Pollack article is silly beyond belief (womb-wisdom? my wisdom is in my brain, thanks, and mothers who don’t have wombs are no less caring or protective of their children). I do think there’s something telling about Jewish patriarchy in that the mother is required to give the infant boy over to men who circumcise him. There’s something there, it seems to me, similar to baptism in that the person who brought the child into the world somehow isn’t qualified to bring him into the religious community–that’s the province of men. It seems cognate to me with Alicia Ostriker’s analysis of the Abraham-Isaac story as about the disempowerment of Sarah as the mother–the rejection of her authority and protection over her son. It’s one reason I’d have a bris shalom for a son of mine instead (which would involve me holding the kiddo); another is that I did attend one bris and even though I didn’t look–wasn’t even in the room at the time (taking care of the baby’s older sister)–the sound of his screaming was almost too much for me. I know not every infant reacts that way, but I couldn’t handle it if mine did.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

        I understand what you’re saying, EG. I just hate the lurid, overheated rhetoric that seems to surround every discussion about this.

        Fortunately, at my son’s bris — at which both his parents played equal roles — the mohel (who had the reputation of being the best mohel in North Jersey!) let him take a little wine in his mouth, and also applied some sort of numbing agent, so all that happened was that he whimpered a little for about half a minute, and then went promptly to sleep. I think I can safely say that there was no irreversible altering of the mother-child relationship.

        1. EG
          EG September 19, 2013 at 10:35 pm |

          Completely agreed.

      2. Willemina
        Willemina September 21, 2013 at 2:30 am |

        I do think there’s something telling about Jewish patriarchy in that the mother is required to give the infant boy over to men who circumcise him

        It’s interesting you bring that up, since the primary gatekeepers of this sort of cultural gender marker tend to be the members of the gender. My mom was emphatic that no one was going to do anything to her firstborn and my dad backed off his natural assumption that they’d circumcise. This from former Roman Catholics.

        I could certainly have done without the mystical womb conversations, but I was interested to see the evolution from ancient to Hellenic practices and the historical context it applied. Apart from her efforts to define every person everywhere’s reaction to the act I thought it was pretty good.

    3. Ally S
      Ally S September 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm |

      “Womb-wisdom”

      Let me guess; that’s another TERF buzzword. Oh dear.

      1. Computer Soldier Porygon
        Computer Soldier Porygon September 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

        I keep asking my womb for career advice, and it keeps saying nothing. I just want some god damn direction, womb! GIVE ME YOUR WISDOM

      2. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom September 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm |

        I just want some god damn direction, womb!

        So, basically, you want a womb with a view.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

          You win!

        2. GallingGalla
          GallingGalla September 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

          LOL!!

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help September 21, 2013 at 4:44 am |

          Argh! :D

  47. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT September 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

    I agree with the majority of responses here: folks who are against routine infant circumcision should stay grounded in fact and absolutely need to avoid comparisons to FGM or rape (gah, who does that? WHO?). However, the issue really needs to be discussed.

    I have two girls, so I dodged the bullet on this one. I think if I’d had a boy I’d have resisted. My thought was that I can teach the boy to clean himself properly and about safe sex, so the typical justifications for cutting him as an infant didn’t fly for me. YMMV.

  48. Ghost Orchid
    Ghost Orchid September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

    If some form of FGM had health benefits, would you support it? Think about it. That’s what you’re saying about male circ. Also, you are 100% wrong about intactivists not having viewpoints based in science and research. You, Jill, are quite ignorant of the research on the subject.

    FGM has MANY forms from prepuce removal to infibulation (types I-IV). The most common forms are roughly equivalent to male circ. The clitoris is 4 inches long (mostly internal) and forms of FGM that cut the “clitoris” remove the clitoral glans (equivalent to the glans penis). This is not equivalent to cutting the whole penis. FGM victims can usually masturbate and experience orgasm (research shows this). FGM victims also don’t feel like victims and tend to enjoy sex (research shows this as well).

    FGM and MGM are horrible abominations. Please stop spreading lies and misinformation.

    1. Ledasmom
      Ledasmom September 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm |

      The clitoris is 4 inches long (mostly internal) and forms of FGM that cut the “clitoris” remove the clitoral glans (equivalent to the glans penis). This is not equivalent to cutting the whole penis.

      True, but I’m pretty sure that if male circumcision removed the glans penis there wouldn’t be a person here who was in favor of it.

  49. Melinda
    Melinda September 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

    Citing medical organizations that have nothing to gain when they say circumcision has zero medical benefits is not twisting facts ot obscuring the truth. The only people that say circumcision has benefits are the ones that make money off it.

    The Royal Dutch Medical Association says:

    ” The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications.”

    Source (their website): http://knmg.artsennet.nl/Publicaties/KNMGpublicatie/Nontherapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-2010.htm

    Sincerely,
    A feminist thats really fed up with hypocritical feminists that think only girls are deserving of an unaltered body.

  50. Addie
    Addie September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |

    I’ve never been here before, but after having read through all of the comments on this post, I have to say that I’m disappointed by the unabashed way in which a (male) rape victim was shamed and silenced. James Dixon raised some valid questions, and maintained a reasonable tone throughout a variety of referenced comments, despite obviously feeling strongly about circumcision, but the comments directed toward him by others seemed very over-the-top and inflammatory.

    Does the interpretation of feminism here disallow male rape victims from making analogies about their experiences? Is the discussion of rape just so completely taboo that even its victims are not allowed to touch on it? I just can’t believe that someone who obviously tried very hard to maintain a respectful discourse was in turn treated so disrespectfully by alleged feminists, who, it seems to me, should welcome a wide variety of viewpoints on any subject… but then, this is the internet, I suppose. I just felt compelled to add one voice of support for James Dixon, since I saw nothing of the sort in the above comments. Carry on, James. I give you points for trying.

    1. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable September 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

      What the hell? Where was he shamed for being a rape victim? Nowhere, right? Great. This was fun.

    2. Ally S
      Ally S September 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

      Comparing something that isn’t rape to rape, even if you’re a rape victim yourself, is unacceptable. And I wonder if you’ve considered how other rape victims may have felt about that.

    3. James Dixon
      James Dixon September 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

      Thank you, Addie. :)

      As a bloke who also happens to be a feminist, I’ll not the horrorshow stuff I’ve read about male circumcision on Feministe and Jezebel bother me too much — some of my favourite anti-circumcision scholars, researchers and activists are women (and feminists): Kirsten Bell, Sarah Waldeck, Marie Fox, Lena Nyhus, Anne Lindboe, Jenny Klinge, Sirkku Hellsten, Elizabeth Reis, Alice Dreger, Margaret Somerville, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Soraya Mire, and Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, to name just a few.

      (Dear Moderator, I’m deeply sorry for posting so many links. Kindly forgive me.)

  51. Jhon Murdock
    Jhon Murdock September 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |

    Anyone here think that because we have a Federal Anti FGM law on the books since 1997, that little girls are not being feloniously cut, circumcised and mutilated in complete violation of this law? Think again. This link exposes the tip of the iceberg: slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/06/16/female-genital-mutilation-at-cornell-university Most of the commenters seem oblivious to the law and are outraged by the clitoral stimulation applied by the doctor to “check out his work”. But everything done to these girls is prohibited, even with parental consent. Our FGM law as written has NO provision for enforcement whatsoever. Current estimates run about 228,000 girls at risk for this abuse and not a single prosecution has occurred since the law went into effect! There is nothing pathological in a “large clitoris”, no disease, no reason to cut. And do we think the cultures who have cut their girls for thousands of years under the most deplorable septic conditions will suddenly just stop because some unenforceable law went into effect here in the US? All forced genital cutting of girls and boys must be ended and to do this parents, men and women, both sexes together have to join forces to abolish these horrendous Human Rights violations. Start with this link and follow….

  52. Caperton
    Caperton September 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm | *

    Just a reminder that, due to the contentious subject matter of the post, comments are on full moderation. If your comment doesn’t appear immediately, it’s likely that a moderator just hasn’t gotten a chance to clear out the mod queue yet.

    Or it could be that you’re sockpuppeting, which isn’t hard for mods to pick up on and is grounds for banning. So keep it up, asshole.

    1. Thomas
      Thomas September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

      Hmmm…. my last comment seems to have been rejected…. I’m not entirely sure why… you of course have every right to censor comments…. but I don’t think I crossed any line. I also believe that my tone was appropriate given the fact that I feel circumcision is a direct attack on my bodily autonomy.

      I find this debate about comparing FGM and MC to be horribly offensive and opportunistic. People who have not experience GM using the suffering of others to try and justify continuing MC for non-religious reasons is obviously inappropriate. If a male were to make similar arguments about FGM would you not be upset and accusatory?

  53. Jhon Murdock
    Jhon Murdock September 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  54. SkyTracer
    SkyTracer September 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm |

    The inactivists have their facts wrong, but neither Stern nor Jill gives enough due to the principle of autonomy and consent.

    Disclaimer: this is the first time I have ever publicly discussed male circumcision, and I acknowledge that society has bigger fish to fry on the “autonomy and consent” front than male circumcision.

    “Circumcision reduces the risk of STIs” isn’t a sufficient justification. Non-monogamous people would be at a lower risk for STIs if they were monogamous. People who have casual sex would be at a lower risk for STIs if they were demisexual. Men who have sex with men would be at a lower risk for STIs (especially HIV) if they refused to fuck dudes. I’m not equating the consequences of homophobia or abstinence-enforcement with the consequences of circumcision; I’m illustrating a general principle (“autonomy and consent trump sensationalized worries about STI transmission”) by way of more obvious examples.

    And the STI worries are sensationalized, not the least because of homophobia and racism. STIs are pretty easy to avoid if you’ve been informed about their transmission and you take appropriate action with partners. (Yes, that goes for MSM sex too. Queer dudes aren’t AIDS patients waiting to happen, no matter how much misinformed straight people love to believe otherwise.) Most STIs, once acquired, are perfectly treatable with proper health care.

    I don’t believe the benefits of circumcision are unattainable via strong sex-education (and I think it behooves anyone who disagrees to examine their disagreement for racist or colonialist implications) and accessible health care, and I’d rather emphasize the importance of autonomy and consent by letting sexually-active boys/men decide for themselves if they’d like to have a circumcision.

    The general public probably doesn’t care much about this because most circumcised men aren’t particularly bothered by it (nor are their partners), and there are both cognitive and social (c.f. TomSim’s comment above) biases that would discourage men from complaining about the state of their dicks even if circumcision decreased sexual satisfaction (which it doesn’t, given the research).

    Feminists can do better, and in doing so would emphasize the importance of bodily integrity, informed consent, sex ed, and comprehensive health care.

    P.S. If dudes could stop informing us of the state of their dicks and satisfaction thereof, that would be great. One, It’s irrelevant. Two, it’s way too much information.

  55. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl September 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

    I just wanted to comment separately about this whole RIC to insure cleanliness canard that has already been thrown around unthread.

    Because the assumptions underlying it are bullshit sexist gender essentialism at some of its worst. Boy children don’t need to be circd to insure cleanliness, all they need is to be given simple instructions to clean themselves regularly during bathing. Here in the U.S., and especially here in flyover country, there persists a ridiculously insulting notion that boys/men are near-Neanderthals incapable of deep thoughts beyond want pizza and give me sexing. It’s a common meme even in the average tv show or Cosmo column that men are basically stupid and lazy and don’t give a crap about anything.

    And that is flat out sexism. Boys are just as capable of learning to bathe themselves as their womanly counterparts, and to actually do so on a regular basis. I refuse to accept arguments to the contrary that such a thing is impossible. For goodness sake, my mother certainly taught me how to keep my lady parts clean, what with them not being an non-interrupted plane without need of intricate cleaning attention. My uncird kids have likewise been taught as they have gotten older how to keep up with their personal cleanliness, and whadaya know! no UTIs or other problems have befallen them.

    Really, can we dispatch with this line of non-reason? I truly do not understand how a feminist venue could take such a thing seriously.

    1. mamram
      mamram September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

      Agreed. It seems that when humans practice genital cutting, it’s to reinforce cultural norms regarding gender difference. It shouldn’t surprise us that when westerners practice genital cutting, it’s for the same reason (reinforcing the idea that boys are yucky/paying attention to hygiene is emasculating).

  56. ihavequestions
    ihavequestions September 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm |

    I am a feminist, a mother, and a grandmother, and I oppose infant circumcision. I chose to leave my son intact back when very few parents did, and he has never had any problems at all because of it. My father and my brother are intact (I was told), and they never had any problems because of it either. My opinion is that circumcision should be done only to adult men, if they choose it.

  57. Aaron
    Aaron September 20, 2013 at 7:12 am |

    This article….is not true!

  58. Maria
    Maria September 20, 2013 at 8:44 am |

    Does being anti-intactivism make you a bad Feminist, or just a bad person?

    A Special Note to Feminists

    I understand that it’s difficult to care about circumcision when there seems to be so much anti-feminist hate among intactivists. I have written about why feminists aren’t more visible within intactivism, and even the comments are telling. I have even considered leaving the intactivist community because of the sexism and misogyny. I read the same comments online as you. I am equally disgusted by the male privilege oblivion. I even recognise the reason male circumcision seems to dominate the conversation at times, is because of male privilege.

    But none of that changes the truth about circumcision. It’s a violation of consent. It’s a product of patriarchy, it’s a manifestation of rape culture, and a mother’s ability to protect her children has been a fundamental right denied her through patriarchy and childism. Most of my advocacy, in real conversations, is with cis-women. Mothers-to-be. Women who are questioning the practice, but who find themselves going rounds with their circumcised partners about this issue. Parents who are being denied their power to protect their children, even from their partners or a medical community ignorant about foreskin. Traditionally, it is the women who are forced to ignore their parental hearts, their primal instinct to protect their babies. Traditionally, circumcision is part of a rite into manhood, set apart from women. Mothers and parents have been told to harm their babies, and they have been lied to. Empowering women to trust themselves, to be willing to die on this hill, is central to my advocacy around child circumcision.

    Circumcision is a product of Patriarchy. It is anti-feminist. Child circumcision is inconsistent with feminist values. I was a feminist long before I was an intactivist. My feminist values led me to intactivism. Intactivism has always been an extension of my feminist values. Because cutting off healthy, erogenous tissue, from a non-consenting child, violates their human rights. The anatomy the person possesses does not change this fundamental Human Right.

  59. Jamie
    Jamie September 20, 2013 at 10:30 am |

    The well’s been irreparably poisoned, intactivists, and you guys are the ones that poisoned it by comparing male circ. with FGM. Deal with it.

    The only way a productive discussion can happen, imo, is if, at the outset, you set the parameters of the discussion, and one of the parameters is explicitly banning comparison to FGM. (This is gonna be my only comment, btw.)

  60. Choose Intact » Blog Archive » With Friends Like These…

    [...] Filipovic posted on Mark Joseph Stern’s smear in Slate. Her post is a mix of good and [...]

  61. Chuck
    Chuck September 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

    I was circumcised as an infant, and have hated it and those who did it to me since the day I knew. No one had any authority to deny me the right to choose to be whole. Do you know what it’s like when every time you shower, use the restroom, change clothes, even make love, you’re reminded that you can never be whole again? Do you know what it’s like when you go through your youth and teen years, discovering sexuality, yet being reminded of this every single time? Yeah, it does some damage to some of us. I no longer speak to my parents, and never will again. I just wish they were punished for what they’ve done.

    It’s noteworthy that, even if ALL the claims of reduced rates of disease are true, it still only adds up to a 1 in 100 chance of benefitting by preventing a problem. 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lives. removing the breast buds in infancy would prevent every single one of them. Yet this is not done, and considered unthinkable, because it’s absurd to cut a body part off a person without consent when you can’t reasonably conclude that they WOULD consent if they could. less than 1% of men will ever choose circumcision. This, and other medical reasons, is why the vast majority of the medical organizations in the world are opposed to infant circumcision. This includes:

    College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
    Swedish Pediatric Society
    The Canadian Pediatric Society
    Royal Australasian College of Physicians
    British Medical Association
    Royal Dutch Medical Society
    The Netherlands Society of General Practitioners,
    The Netherlands Society of Youth Healthcare Physicians,
    The Netherlands Association of Paediatric Surgeons,
    The Netherlands Association of Plastic Surgeons,
    The Netherlands Association for Paediatric Medicine,
    The Netherlands Urology Association,
    The Netherlands Surgeons’ Association
    Royal College of Surgeons of England
    Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
    Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons
    Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations
    Australian Medical Association
    The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
    Saskatchewan Medical Association
    Norwegian Medical Association,
    Norwegian Nurses Organization,
    Norwegian Ombudsman for Children,
    Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oslo,
    Norwegian Council for Medical Ethics,
    Central Union for Child welfare in Finland,
    Denmark National Council for Children,
    German Association of Pediatricians,
    British Association of Pediatric Urologists,
    German Society for Pediatric Surgery,
    French National Council on AIDS,
    German Association of Child & Youth Doctors

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

      I was circumcised as an infant, and have hated it and those who did it to me since the day I knew. No one had any authority to deny me the right to choose to be whole

      You found out about your circumcision, and then immediately hated your penis, your parents and the medical profession. Judging from your comments I can’t imagine you were ever denied the choice to be ‘a whole’ (sic).

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

        You know, Steve, fuck off. People have all sorts of issues with their bodies, and just because it doesn’t suit your own POV doesn’t mean those issues are not real, and no one in the world has to be A-Okay with their bodies in order to avoid experiencing you being a (circumcised) dick to them on the internet.

      2. Willemina
        Willemina September 21, 2013 at 2:49 am |

        Making fun of someone’s lived experience isn’t cool. Clever use of a misquote was [sic] though.

    2. EG
      EG September 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

      I no longer speak to my parents, and never will again. I just wish they were punished for what they’ve done.

      Yes, this doesn’t make you sound completely irrational at all.

      Seriously, if having been circumcised is what makes you stop speaking to your parents, you wouldn’t last five minutes in any branch of my family. We’ve had, you know, actual problems and rifts.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm |

      My reply to Steve aside, though, Chuck, I imagine a hell of a lot of men, Muslim, Jewish and other, would be really quite happy to be circumcised in adulthood, should the choice be upon them. You can tell, because penis-havers routinely convert to these religions. And I think shaming them – or erasing them, or sneering at them, or assuming you know the opinions of every penis-having person in the history of people about the state of their dick – is pretty damn objectionable, and kindly knock it the fuck off. Particularly when there’s men (and trans women) on this thread who have explicitly pointed out that they never had a problem with being circed, thank you.

      Goddamn it, this issue’s right up there for bringing out the worst in everyone, isn’t it?

  62. Craig Garrett
    Craig Garrett September 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm |

    Hi Jill, might I provide a link to a page describing a study which *proves* that the tissue removed by circumcision is the most sensitive part of a man’s body?
    http://coloradonocirc.org/sexual

    Direct link to the study paper itself:
    http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/pdf/sorrells_2007.pdf

  63. Anita
    Anita September 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

    I am a feminist, a mother and an intactivist. I have marched and demonstrated in events to support women’s rights for over two decades. I’ve been on local television and radio in support of women’s rights multiple times. I also actually worked in a women’s studies office for three years in college.

    Jill, you know not whereof you speak regarding circumcision. Your article is a sad witness to the pervasiveness of circumcision myths and society’s willingness to belittle and humiliate those survivors of circumcision who are brave enough to speak out about the crimes committed against their bodies.

    I am repulsed and disappointed by the mocking, dismissive tone of this article.

    I have spent the last year educating myself about the problems associated with male genital mutilation. I used to think I would never say this, but MGM is as bad as or worse than most (not ALL) forms of FGM. Infibulation is even worse than MGM. To say that all MGM is really minor in comparison to all FGM is, unfortunately, incorrect. Please do adequate research on the subject so that you can understand the depth of how awful MGM really is.

    If you can do no better than sit back and cast aspersions about intactivists, and refuse to STUDY the subject, then I can have no respect for any complaint you bring up.

    You clearly do not know about the horrors of circumcision. Truly, some men’s lives have also been ruined by MGM. You just haven’t looked into the subject yet. Some men’s genitals are so mangled that it is impossible for them to ever experience sexual intercourse. And it is estimated that at least 117 baby boys die in the US yearly because of circumcision. I am not some apologist for the patriarchy. These are HUMAN RIGHTS issues, and in case you have forgotten, males are humans, too.

    Unfortunately, there are many excellent reasons for us to be “intactivists.” I wish that were not the case…. I’d so much rather not ever have to be concerned about this issue. But it’s a fact that baby boys sometimes _die_ from circumcision. I’m going to assume that you are a caring person. Well, it’s hard for me as a caring person to think of babies dying because their parents chose to have them undergo unnecessary _cosmetic_ surgery at the age of just a few days. I hope that you, also, feel that the loss of these lives is a very bad thing. These babies are the joy of their parents’ hearts for such a brief time; after their deaths, the joy is replaced by grief that never disappears.

    There are quite a few more legitimate reasons to oppose genital cutting, but personally, for me, risking losing a child’s life is really a sufficient reason all by itself.
    I am a mother of a girl and a boy. I found out when I was pregnant with my son, that he would be born with a birth defect requiring a number of surgeries over a span of 18 years. As a mother, I wanted to protect my baby from all harm. But I couldn’t save him from _needing_ surgery. I _did_, however, save him from circumcision, which was a

  64. Anita
    Anita September 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm |

    surgery he did _not_ need.

    But I am far from the only mother who looks around and says, “I care about _everybody’s_ baby. I want ALL the babies to be safe!” That’s one of the many reasons women have for taking a keen interest in both female genital mutilation AND male genital mutilation (“circumcision”). We have enough love in our hearts to care about all children, and we are taking action to save real, live, breathing and wiggling babies. That’s not really so strange, now, is it?

  65. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl September 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

    I’m Jewish, from the UK, and I’ve asked a variety of male Jewish friends, relatives, partners etc about their thoughts on having been circumcised in terms of sexual pleasure and general feelings towards themselves and their parents about the procedure. Moreover, would they circumcise their own son if they had one. To a man, they said they had no issues whatsoever and that they would without a doubt. I know one friend who decided to circumcise his two sons, but in a clinical setting, not the traditional mohel, home-based setting.

    Now anecdotes are just that, but if there really was a great trauma intrinsically experienced by men who have been circumcised. Why are these men not experiencing it? Why are they not reporting all the sexual dysfunction claimed by intactivists? Why, from my own experience of sex with a variety of non-circ/circ-ed men, has there been no rhyme or reason as to who was hair-trigger, slow to orgasm, relatively insensitive etc?

    I have my serious doubts about circumsision for the reasons listed above re: bodily autonomy, but I just don’t recognise the hyperbole from the intactivists based on the experiences of the men I know.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm |

      Why are these men not experiencing it?

      False consciousness! They just don’t know any better! They only think they’re OK! Etc., etc.

      1. mamram
        mamram September 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm |

        Maybe this is your point, but there are also women who don’t experience genital cutting as traumatic, whose perspectives western feminists happily dismiss as “false consciousness.” This is also a false binary: that some people aren’t traumatized doesn’t mean that those who are are being hyperbolic about their trauma. People are different, feminists should get this.

      2. DannyChameleon
        DannyChameleon September 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

        Every time someone says “false consciousness”, I want to scream. Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgh.

    2. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable September 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

      Now anecdotes are just that, but if there really was a great trauma intrinsically experienced by men who have been circumcised. Why are these men not experiencing it?

      …Because most people who experience trauma don’t develop PTSD? Some people do, right? But most people who experience trauma do not. This is a terrible argument with a really horrible slippery slope that could be applied to any number of things.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 9:39 pm |

      Why are these men not experiencing it? Why are they not reporting all the sexual dysfunction claimed by intactivists?

      OK, I’ll play!

      I’ve been sexually abused, so have many of my friends, and it’s never interfered with our sexual function! I don’t understand why all these survivors on the internet are so tetchy, GAWD.

      Ooh, ooh! Or!

      I’ve lived in India, and I had to commute through filthy areas that were essentially mass toilets, and I never complained about it. I don’t understand why you’re so bothered that I took a dump on your rug!

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm |

        In short: people are different and different people react to the same thing differently. I appreciate that it’s probably not a significant % of people who are traumatised, but it’s a number greater than zero. And as I asked upthread: how much dogshit in your coffee is too much dogshit in your coffee?

  66. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune September 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm |

    Okay, so…I’m really uncomfortable with the whole “no people ever are traumatised by circumcision haha what are you people talking about” deal, for the same reasons I am made uncomfortable by the reverse. It seems about as ridiculous and dismissive as saying “all breast-having people are comfortable with having breasts”, when I can imagine several categories of people (sometimes myself included) who would beg to differ. How about we all agree that some people are probably traumatised, given statistics, and most people aren’t? If there are people who genuinely feel hurt and traumatised by circumcision, is there any need to crap all over them in the process of defending circumcision? Particularly when there are people right in this goddamn thread talking about how uncomfortable they are with being circumcised? Can we at least try not to tell them they don’t exist? Thanks.

  67. EuropeanMan
    EuropeanMan September 21, 2013 at 12:32 am |

    Male infant circumcision as performed in the US only proves how crippled the American health care system is. But there is no light at the end of the tunnel: The Republicans are killing Obama health care reform.

  68. EuropeanMan
    EuropeanMan September 21, 2013 at 12:38 am |

    There is also another interesting fact that I would like to mention. One of the intactivists groups intactamerica.org is lead by a feminist, Georganne Chapin. Her latest blog is really interesting and I would like to link it here:

    http://intactamerica.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/circumcision-and-rape-does-a-victims-memory-matter/

  69. Fishing for Insults
    Fishing for Insults September 21, 2013 at 12:54 am |

    Well this has been quite the anatomy lesson.

    The implied assumption beneath intactivst rhetoric seems to be that male sexual function is the most important fucking thing in the world, and for some this debate seems to be little more than an excuse to discuss same in GREAT detail.

    Maybe youd be happier if you spent more time using your penis and less time dissecting it.

    (Figuratively of course.)

  70. BroadBlogs
    BroadBlogs September 21, 2013 at 12:55 am |

    This can come up in my classes when I discuss female genital mutilation. I say that it’s fine with me if they want to advocate for choice in circumcision. But I want to be clear that male and female circumcision are not equivalent. When a man is circumcised he probably won’t die (unlike in some cultures that lack antibiotics), and when he loses his virginity he probably won’t be in pain from being cut (as many women are), and he will probably manage to have an orgasm.

  71. Kyle
    Kyle September 21, 2013 at 4:03 am |

    Odd that you say that it’s the most common form. WHO states that it is the rarest, only seen in remote parts of Afghanistan and parts of Indonesia. And the 1a includes removing not only the prepuce, but often part of the clitoris as well. I really don’t think getting circumcised includes cutting off half my head…so I don’t even see how that’s comparable. So the mildest form of FGM is also one of the rarest, and even that cannot fully be compared to circumcision most of the time. Again I’m anti-circumcision, but as someone who has volunteered in a related organization, I really can’t believe the mis-information being spread.

    1. Kyle
      Kyle September 21, 2013 at 4:03 am |

      This was meant as a reply to someone claiming that removing only the prepuce was the most common form of FGM.

  72. tigtog
    tigtog September 21, 2013 at 5:17 am | *

    Since the comments are piling up in the moderation queue for this thread, and Jill appears to be unplugged at the moment, I’m closing comments for the time being. Jill can open them when she’s plugged back in again.

  73. » What’s So Often Missing from Debates about Routine Infant Penile Circumcision Richard Jeffrey Newman

    [...] at Fem­i­niste, Jill has writ­ten a post called “How Intac­tivists Are Ruin­ing the Debate on Cir­cum­ci­sion” in which she com­plains, quite rea­son­ably, that “Every time female gen­i­tal cut­ting [...]

  74. Coda to the MC discussion on feministe.us | Reality-based World View

    [...] looks as if the comment thread of the MC post on feministe.us is permanently closed, so I’ll use this roundabout way to clarify my point once [...]

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