The creepy circumcision comics


I'm not the sort to cry racism, or sexism, or anti-thisorthat-ism every time something offends me. There's stuff that's intentionally offensive and still funny, stuff that's unintentionally offensive and harmless and all sorts of other stuff that might be in poor taste but doesn't rise to the "ism" level. But I have to say: The comics that the anti-circumcision folks are putting out are just creepy.  

The Chron story on this was a classic of its kind, with quotes from both "sides" and an academic interlude. But it all becomes a bit more clear with this comparison of the circumcision comics and some classic graphics from Nazi Germany (thanks to Sen. Mark Leno, who passed these along to me).

I'm not going to claim the authors of the comics were motivated by anti-Semitism; I don't even know them. But folks, get a clue -- this is beyond offensive. Anyone with any sense at all should know better.


"which neither harm the infant or society."

Look, I'm not a strident advocate either way on this issue. But the above statement to describe circumcision really got me thinking. There are lots of web sites that argue one way or another, but I wanted to get an unbiased overview, so I looked up circumcision in Wiki, where it turns out they give a pretty good overview of some of the controversies.

You can read it here But bascially here's a summary of what I found about some of these controversies:

Is it painful? General consensus is YES! This is one of the controversies that's pretty much settled in the medical community.

But... is anesthesia used? For the most part, NO. Less than half of doctors and virtually all mohels do NOT use anesthesia.

Does it make the penis less sensitive? Maybe, maybe not. There are studies that seem to find support for both positions.

Does it make intercourse less satisfying? Maybe, maybe not.

Does it make intercourse less satisfying for the other partner? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe more satisfying. Not that this should matter, because it's not the partner's body!

Is there an effect on erectile dysfunction? Again, equivocal -maybe more, maybe less.

Does it reduce AIDS? Maybe. Appears so in Africa, according to one study. Results have not been replicated in western countries.

Does it reduce HPV? Maybe, but some studies say it increases genital warts.

What about other STDs, and spread to the partner? Maybe, maybe not. Data is highly inconclusive.

Does it reduce risk of penile cancer? Seems to, but risk is so low to begin, weighed against the complications of the procedure, that the American Cancer Society doesn't recommend it as a way of preventing cancer.

What is the rate of complications? Anywhere from about 0.2% to 10.0%

Can you die (assuming it's performed in a western country, not in the bush by a witch doctor)? YES. While some studies don't report any deaths, others site figures of up to 16 per 90,000. Remember, this is in western countries.

If you survive without complications, is there psychological harm? Maybe. Some studies say no; others find high rates of PTSD. Some studies also claim that it encodes the brain toward violence and interference with infant-maternal bonding. Some men even go to the lengths of attempted foreskin restoration procedures.

One thing that becomes clear amidst all the controversy, is that it raises more questions than answers. Maybe it benefits. Maybe it harms. But the line that it definitely causes no harm does not seem to be unequivocally justified by the evidence. But still, more questions than answers. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable banning it.

But then I remember that the initiative is not about banning circumcision! It is about preserving the CHOICE until the boy is old enough to decide for himself!

And given that much of the harm (if there is harm) is immediate and/or permanent (like PTSD, sexual dysfunction, pain, and death)... while much of the benefits (if there are any) occur later in life (a possible reduction in AIDS transmission rates for sexually active adults), the choice becomes more clear for me which way to vote. If a man believes that getting himself circumcised is the best way to prevent AIDS, and he wants to risk the complications, that's fantastic! Let him do it! ...but let HIM decide, not have someone decide for him.

The other thing that I realized in the process... is how little I knew about this subject. Having it on the ballot made me think and learn about something that I knew little about, and that makes me think that however this issue is decided, it's good that it's on the ballot, because it gets people to think and learn and talk about it.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

They also, as in the case of my sister, refuse to tie a women's tubes when she asks. After my sister had her second and final child she asked after the birth of her daughter for the surgeon to tie her tubes. The hospital refused, saying it was against their policy as a Catholic hospital.

Again - this is an interference in the relationship between a physician, his patients or the patient's proxies. That is all it is. No different than hospitals refusing to provide birth control or perform surgeries to prevent pregnancy.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that it is someday determined, by some studies, that removal of the sensitive skin around the tips of a baby girls breasts will provide some protection from adult breast cancer. Let's say also that it has suddenly become a well respected cultural practice to cut off the skin around baby girls' breasts in just this way.

Should parents be allowed to approve such a procedure on their babies?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

You tried to play this little game with the Treasure Island issue too - coming up with ridiculous scenarios involving destroyed bridges, walls of water and sea monsters. I'm not playing it with you. We're talking about now - and this issue is one which shouldn't be decided by the voters. Period.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

The answer of course to the question you don't want to answer, is 'No', parents shouldn't be allowed to do such a thing to either girls or boys...

I notice that whenever you are faced with a question you know you can't answer without admitting you are wrong, you take the obvious and easy route of simply not answering the question...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

Thank you, Lucretia. At last a voice of reason. Next thing the fascists will be deciding for us is whether we take one oreo or two with our beers....

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

This Board is just becoming the Eric Brooks, Greg, and Lucretia show. (And Matt Dorsey in the other thread that I read recently.) Does the SFBG only have 3 readers? Maybe 4 since I skimmed the posts so I guess I'm a reader.

My 2 cents: Shouldn't a law like this be handled at the federal or state level, if at all? Seems to me that if a parent wants to circumcise their kid and San Francisco doesn't allow it, they'll just have their baby delivered in Berkeley or Marin, etc. It seems like the sponsors are pushing the measure in San Francisco just because San Francisco likes to ban stuff.

Posted by The Commish on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

It's about setting the precedent of finally passing a ban somewhere so that the rest of the U.S. can feel empowered to get out of the dark ages.

On your other point, I think the issue is more that people simply don't read the comments anymore because it's a total drag to do so with people like Arthur and 'Lucretia' and their many ignominious 'guest' clones allowed to run rampant throwing spiteful insults at people all of the time.

I only read them when they address a particular political issue that I'm working on and/or care a lot about on which I feel I'd better give my side a push in case readers need the info (or the correction of bad info) and are actually paying attention.

I certainly don't enjoy it much.

There are a lot of things I would rather have done with my time than to spend an entire evening of my life combating 'Lucretia's destructive misinformation about circumcision.

Although it can be a good way to hone one's argument so that it is ready for prime time. To this extent at least, it is useful, even if it means battling with disgusting trolls.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

seems the crux of this issue, it's that some people have been mutilating penises of infants for some centuries of time now, which is still fine and acceptable these days.

to suddenly say that is not acceptible to do this procedure makes those people look a little creepy, when you think about the details of what it takes to go through with this. many, but not all of them, are jews, so then you get hitler in the equation.

that doesn't seem like a good reason to keep doing it, if anything it gives a wacko like hitler a few points in his favor. like maybe he was on to something with the ritualized penis slicing and things just got out of hand.

i'm not saying it is creepy, probably it is. but hitler is no excuse to keep doing it.

hard to know how much i miss my foreskin, cause i was too young too remember when it happened or get to know it well, and don't have time to lament something i can't change. i just hope people don't start thinking of me as some freak when the skinned penis goes out of fashion, which it looks like is happening.

also, some of the aborigines in australia have subincision at puberty. look that up and tell me if you are ok with that and why. if palestinians did that you know some of the opinions you would see.

all of this makes you wonder about people and their ideas of normal. there's that one lady that botoxed her kid's face. maybe normal one day.

a general rule of thumb should be that leaving children's genitals alone unless it is a mop up procedure after a dooker or something. i could go with that.

btw: i'm not one to bring up hitler, this article kinda threw him in your face though.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:00 pm

before 18? I don't understand why Eric believes this to be the correct age at which a young person can make such a decision and act upon it. What about people who wish to transition before the age of 18?

Posted by M. Worrall on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

I still get angry at my parents for decisions they made for me, when I was not an "adult", but my lost foreskin has never been one of them. It is just that if you are going to argue for the decision rights of children and adolescents, it seems odd to endorse the supposedly magic age of 18.

Posted by M. Worrall on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

Good point. Perhaps the measure should include emancipated minors.

The trouble with allowing the decision to kids still living with their parents is that it would then be far more likely that children would be coerced into it against their will, as so many girls are in other countries where it is 'legal'.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

I don't know Dr. Weil; I'm sure he's a pretty good guy, but I'd caution against going with any one person's opinion, because that person is going to be selective about what sources they believe because of their own biases. It seems that Dr. Weil is trying to be neutral about it, but if you read carefully you can see a definite bias there.

That's why I skipped the pro/anti circumcision sites and went straight to Wiki. Say what you will about Wiki, but they usually give a pretty good overview and try to encompass all the different sides. You can read the article, or my summary of it, on the previous comment page.

One thing that quickly became pretty clear, was that it's pretty UNclear whether it benefits more or harms more... medically, psychologically, and sexually.

Furthermore, whatever benefits there may or may not be, accrue in adulthood. Therefore I come more and more to the conclusion that there is clearly no harm in letting the child grow up to the point where he can decide for himself. If there is no harm to letting him decide for himself, and possibly a benefit, then according to the principles of medical ethics of "first do no harm," I would think that it's best to preserve that choice about their own bodies.

And Eric, I realize you're kind of tearing your hair out arguing with Lucretia/Secretia, but you have to realize that people tend to dig into their positions more and more as they argue. I don't think you're going to win over someone like that.

But looking at those posts, objectively speaking, her position is becoming increasingly untenable. To continue to hold the position that she does, you have to selectively ignore certain data. Because if you admit even as much as I do -that *we're not sure* of the full range of harm and benefits, then the position of any reasonable person is to begin to question whether the practice should be done. You also have to either ignore certain difficult questions, like the one I posed about the 13-year old boy who refuses to do it. Because to confront those questions and not re-evaluate a position such as the one she's holding, necessarily forces one to take some pretty extremist stands -that basically children have no rights at all to decide what to do with their bodies. And in essence, that's what she seems to be doing. At first, her position seemed to be a soft "you and your doctor" stand. But when that position was probed a little bit, it seemed to morph into something more extreme -the "you" seems to have disappeared.

Well, that's human nature. People dig in. Just keep in mind that there are more people reading this than you, me, and Secretia.

Anyway, like I said, it's a good discussion. Having this on the ballot has forced me to think and learn about something that I previously haven't given much thought to. I hope people have these kinds of discussions before voting. And yes, it is time we did start having the discussion.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 8:14 am

Weil has done a lot to advance people being healthier, but at the same time he has made some very off-the-wall recommendations that seem more based on his biased ideology of how he would like the world to be, rather than how it really is.

For example, he is constantly almost religiously promoting the eating of salmon for health.

This is just absurd. Anyone who knows how badly aquatic life has been contaminated by mercury and other deadly toxins knows full well that eating fish (especially bio-accumulating carnivores near the top of the oceanic food chain like salmon) is a fundamentally bad idea.

I have a feeling that if Weil actually sat down and looked at the literature and sites which detail the terrible mutilation and death that occurs because of circumcision, he wouldn't support it.

How could any sane person do so..?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 11:49 am

I hope you realize that this is just more anti-Jewish BS now that the communist party and the Muslims have gotten into bed with one another. It has nothing to do with rights or cleanliness. This is how Jew-bashing has started from time immemorial. Now, if you want to do something really useful, ban Muslim clitorectomies!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

"Muslim clitorectomies" are already banned. The ban is broad based, and covers EVEN the types of female circumcision that remove only the foreskin around the clitoris.

And enough about this "ban" stuff already. There is no proposed "ban."

Again, this law does. not. ban. circumcision. Period.

All this would do is let the person decide for himself. That's all.

Oh by the way, Muslims perform male circumcision too so this has nothing to do with communists and Muslims bashing Jews. You are so incredibly misinformed that it makes my head spin.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

Oh! Of course! I forgot! Everyone who disagrees with you is an anti-semite!

You and Dershowitz should get a room...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

Before we go too far comparing male to female circumcision, let me suggest an important distinction. I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that female circumcision is designed to make sex less pleasurable (and poss even painful) to ensure that women are not sexually active (beyond what their husbands desire). That's the main reason it's so barbaric. Male circumcision may, at one point, have had something to do with masturbation (you can argue that forever) but at this point no parent really believes that circumcising as boy will keep him from wanting to have sex. I can state with absolute certainty that it doesn't work.

I also think it's a dangerous precedent for cities to start banning medical procedures, because that's a slippery slope. If we can ban circumcision, can East Jesus North Dakota ban abortion?

Posted by TR on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

So how about learning more about the maiming and death that have have occurred due to male circumcision before you decide that sex drive is the only issue here.

The reality is much more disturbing than that. See:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

to back up his claims. It's ridiculous - no different than an extremist Republican quoting FOX News or Glenn Beck to back up their claims. Eric, you're the leftist Sarah Palin of San Francisco politics.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

That's rich coming from a blog troll who rarely posts -anything- to back up her ridiculous claims.

Just search 'circumcision deaths' and you will find plenty of sources.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

Your opinion is as valid as mine Eric - whether I chose to back up my opinions from the "Circumcision? Yes!" website or not. I got a good chuckle out of your complete ignorance as to the validity of my last statement. You seriously believe that providing links to biased sources and discounting anything with which you disagree makes you a Very Serious Person. As I said before - you and Sarah Palin have way more in common that you chose to admit. LOL - oh the irony!

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

You'll find lots to back up THAT connection.

Biofuel = death. That one brings up some real doozies too!

Biodiesel + alien invasion. Now the truth is right in front of you all!!

Googling brings up ONLY links which are CLEARLY reputable.

LOL - this is quite fun. I love nothing more than popping progressive balloons.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

You might have a point about the dangerous precedent if the initiative actually banned a medical procedure. That was one of my initial questions

As it is, it doesn't ban it at all. It just preserves the choice till the person getting cut has a chance to weigh in. That's a big difference.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

If circumcision is not abuse , then let the children decide if they want to be circumcise or not ? In my opinion this problem is about crazy, controlling religious screwball parents , that's all!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2011 @ 8:35 am

This is plainly anti-Jewish. Racism of the worst sort.

Interesting that it has been such an elephant in this room.

Posted by CRS on Jun. 13, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

If we were voting on whether or not we like the comic, i'd vote no.

But we're not. We're voting on whether it's ok to lop off pieces of people's bodies without asking them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

Ignore the comics! Ignore our campaign! We have nothing to do with who we claim to be!!

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 13, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

And Tim's article is about the "comic."

It is beyond a shadow of a doubt *extremely* racist.

Posted by CRS on Jun. 14, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

If some opponents of circumcision have anti-semitic attitudes, that does not negate the fact that the practice of circumcision is wrong. It is sexual mutilation and potential murder for the sake of a cultural practice. How is that defensible?

I'm sure that some opponents of female genital mutilation have patriarchal racist attitudes against the ethnic groups that practice it.

Does that mean that we should then stop trying to end female genital mutilation out of fear that in doing so we are somehow reinforcing racism?

Of course not. The right of the child is what is important; not what some particular racist morons think about the situation.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 14, 2011 @ 12:02 am

Didn't you ever hear the saying "Don't like abortion? Don't have one!" Well, don't like circumcision? Don't have one. Don't get all fascist and tell others what they can do with their bodies!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

He's been arguing just the opposite -to let people choose what to do with their own bodies instead of having others decide for them without asking their consent.

Let me teach you another saying from the pro-choice movement:
"My body, my choice."

I don't recall it being "My body, my parents' choice"


Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

Uhm...its not YOUR body.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

Uhm... It's not the PARENTS' body either, is it genius?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

Then it's also anti-Muslim, anti-anyone who blindly accepts infant circumcision as normal. Funny how so many Christians or people of no faiths also follow the doctrine of "cleanliness" and "disease prevention". Teach a boy to wash his junk and were a condom, he'll be alright.

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 9:15 am

I'm really glad that I didn't get a circumcision for my son; there was a great educational video by Ed Asner (I don't remember when it was made, I viewed it in 1999, right before my son was born) that 'cuts through' all this unfortunate demagoguery.

Posted by richard stone on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 6:24 am

Seems very Nazi to me. We're Baaaaaaaack!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

Hacking your baby up should be illegal.

Its beyond me why anyone would do this to a child.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

Women have fought long and hard for the right to decide what to do with their bodies. I think it's time that we recognized that children have rights, too. Children have the right to the integrity of their own bodies. They have the right to not to be traumatized or abused by adults who think they know what's best for the child (this includes odious practices like spanking, etc.). That said, I think that the cartoon perpetuates ugly stereotypes and is in poor taste.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

Also, I think that comic looks pretty circa 1933 to me, I wonder if it was accidental or actually influenced by propaganda from Germany. That being said, I still think circumcision of infants is wrong.

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 9:33 am

According to SurveyUSA's recent polling there is very little indecision about this issue. 76% plan to vote no, 18% plan to vote yes. And regardless of their feelings on circumcision by 8-1 voters feel this is not an issue in which the government should be involved.

Those are devastating numbers for the "Yes" crowd. Even if they were able to convince a majority of voters to change their minds on the issue of circumcision (which isn't going to happen) they'd then have to jump the barrier of convincing those same voters to massively expand the role of government in this issue - which is also not going to happen.

What a waste of energy. Imagine if we spent this much time debating a new tax structure for SF and CA instead.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 8:29 am