Women and circumcision: Leave me out of it

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Here’s the thing about the circumcision debate: Like everything else between men and their foreskins, women want nothing to do with it.

A while back, I was at a blues club when a tall, slim, blond fellow asked me for a dance. I’d seen him out on the floor and he seemed like a smooth mover (blues dancers, unlike your average oonst-oonsters, tend to trade partners), so I said yes.

Turns out, I was right. He was a good lead: firm but gentle, playful yet clear. The only problem was, about a minute into the song, he started urgently not-quite-whispering about circumcision. Like, did I know it was mutilation? Had I ever slept with a natural guy? Wasn’t it better?

When I told him I wasn’t accustomed to discussing my sex life on the dance floor, he assumed I didn’t and I hadn’t so I couldn’t possibly say – and, in a show of great evangelical fervor, handed me a card directing me to a website of one, Ms. Kristen O’Hara, who’d authored a book called “Sex as Nature Intended It.”

I dismissed him for the sheer absurdity of his timing as much as anything else. But that was before his cause was set to appear on November’s ballot, thanks to the efforts of Lloyd Schofield and the intactivists (band name, anyone?) who’ve collected more than 7,000 signatures from preservation-friendly petitioners.

As an indisputably happy transplant to the land where cheeseburgers come toy-less and cats have their claws, I was perplexed to find myself perplexed by the proposal.

Was it a latent shred of Judaism somehow stirred up? A knee-jerk reaction to state intervention into this most private of matters? The inevitable result of growing up in a society that gets giggly over the merest suggestion of sexuality – Weiner’s wiener being only the latest example?

Or was it because we’re just so culturally inured to the custom that we treat those who oppose it as freaks? (Anyone else remember Alan Tudyk’s caricature of a gay German drug addict lamenting his lost foreskin in 28 Days?)

I wasn’t – and still am not – prepared to say. It’s complex issue, muddled by the phenomenon in which inhibition and hilarity combine to derail honest conversation. Add religion, equal protection, and a loaded term like “nanny state,” and it’s no surprise the matter has billowed into overwrought emotion on all sides.

But let’s forget – for a moment – vicious Monster Mohels who thirst over infant blood, fathers protecting their sons’ locker-room status, and doctors citing STI-prevention studies that were neither conducted in, nor aimed at, populations in this country. Let’s focus on one group that definitely doesn’t belong in the debate: women.

If my erstwhile blues partner was seriously trying to recruit supporters to his way of thinking, he should have known that an unsuspecting woman on the dance floor would not an ideal target make.

Nonetheless, I admit that a mix of consternation and bemused curiosity got the better of me. I ran reconnaissance on the website – a dreadful 90’s flashback minus only the midi – and was horrified to find that, as an unsuspecting women, I was precisely this Mr. Blues’ target. Indeed, I was the crucial component of his argument.

“The surgically altered circumcised penis makes it difficult – in some cases impossible – for most American women to achieve orgasm from intercourse,” the website proclaimed boldly.

Amid jerky, continuous-loop videos that looked like low-def pornos, and first-person testimonials that sounded like amateur online erotica, nary a word could be found about the person behind (or not, as the case may be) the prepuce. The entire site purported to tell me what I, as a woman, would want from my lover. And all signs pointed to extra skin.

Among O’Hara’s various assertions are that cut members miss out on the retracted foreskin bunching up to seal in vaginal moisture; that decreased sensitivity forces circumcised men have rough “adrenalized” sex; that circumcised men must take longer strokes which deny women ideal clitoral contact; and that the coronal “hook” of a circumcised penis rides along the rippled skin of the vagina, creating uncomfortable friction (the accompanying illustrations put me in mind of the Ruffles have R-R-R-Ridges commercials. Of course, Trojans have r-r-r-ridges, too – on the “Her Pleasure” condoms designed for the very purpose of creating friction.)

The website claims that the head of an uncircumcised penis is “soft, like velvet,” but that circumcised sex is like “being poked with a hard broomstick.” All of this to the following conclusion: men who are bad lovers, who pound like jackhammers, who leave their partners sore, simply can’t help it.

I’m sorry. I’m not denying that there may be physical differences, but my book, the unpracticed and unskilled just don’t get off that easy – pun totally intended.

Now, as it turns out – Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, I sincerely apologize – I’ve had it both ways. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that I speak for a large number of women when I say that I don’t find there to be categorical difference between men who are intact, and those who aren’t.

I’m sure O’Hara and her passionate band of male followers would tell me I’m either vastly lucky, vastly unlucky, or too tuned-out to tell the difference. But I have another analysis: sex is a highly variable, highly personal act.

Take the following unattributed account from O’Hara’s book: a woman describes sex – her first time – with a cut boy on the beach who “literally jumped [her] bones,” pummeled her, and left her feeling “almost dead.” A year later, she had her first natural sex with a boy she’d spent an idyllic summer skinny-dipping and milking cows alongside. Unlike the beach bum, he began the event by kissing her.

Well, no shit she felt differently.

If O’Hara were really a maven of sexuality – or if she paid any attention to the decades of medical literature that precede her – she’d know that sex has as much to do with a person’s head as his or her loins. And if she really had a drum to beat for female satisfaction, she’d be saying anything but “I’m sorry folks, it’s all out of your control. You’re at the mercy of what a masked doctor did 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.”

Women who are in bed with men – indeed, people who are in bed with people –should be encouraged to discuss their needs, say what they want, and help their partners become the best lovers possible. To suggest that a certain kind of sex is the inevitable result of circumcision is not only disempowering, but downright demeaning – for all parties involved.
While O’Hara’s website is clearly over the top, speculation as to women’s preferences pepper online information sharing forums, anti-circumcision websites, and even the literature listed in the resource section of MGMbill.org, which sponsored the San Francisco ballot measure.

To be certain, intact penises have some nifty tricks up their sleeves – thank you, I’m here all night – that circumcised penises just can’t pull off. Or course, if you’re wearing a condom, a lot of them won’t matter. And the – erm – polls can be twisted either way: many say women prefer circumcised penises. Since we’ve put the size debate (for the most part) to rest, it seems fair to reiterate that what you’ve got is less important than how you use it.

I am not trying to say that men shouldn’t get a say in their own anatomy. Even if you call circumcision a personal choice, no matter how you slice it – ok, ok, enough – it’s never really been down to the person who actually matters.

This is about a man’s relationship to his own body, which is why “what women want” shouldn’t play a role.

After all, we’re universally appalled when men’s preferences drive women to seek labiaplasty. (An analogy carefully chosen: it seems greatly unfair to draw a comparison to the vastly more invasive, vastly more dangerous practice of female genital cutting – which, unlike circumcision, has nearly always served to make sex difficult to completely impossible for women .)
There’s a more sinister side to the tendency to make male circumcision into a female issue. It overrides the question of bodily autonomy, and implies that men can only experience their body by acting out their sexual identity through women.

The issue becomes a man’s ability to please women – the equally problematic flip side, of course, being that if a man does a fine job of pleasing his partner, no harm has been done.

Framing the debate in this way cements women’s role as a passive fixture in the relationship, while also diffusing the man’s power (and responsibility) by focusing attention on an external, uncontrollable element.

Making that uncontrollable element controllable sounds great. The problem is, your infant son didn’t choose to be circumcised, but he also didn’t choose not to be. While a neonatal circumcision is irreversible, it’s not like waiting “until he can decide” is wholly without consequences, either.

“I’m glad I’m circumcised,” a friend told me recently, “and I’m sure glad I don’t remember it.”

It’s impossible to say how my friend would have felt about his circumcision had he grown up in a different cultural atmosphere, and mores may well be changing to the point where he would be just as happy whole.

According to the MGM bill’s own website, 90% of male babies already leave Bay Area hospitals intact. It would be foolish to pass a ban based on the assumption that masses of infants are senselessly whisked away to be docked while their mothers, drugged-up and dopey, lay unawares.

And, regardless of your views on the matter, it is likewise foolish to assume that damage between men and women can be introduced or repaired by a foreskin.

Take, for example, Mr. Blues. Now I didn’t ask, but both his fervor on the subject and statistics – as intactivists are fond of pointing out – would indicate that he was altered. side from his attempt bordering-on-low-grade-sexual-harassment to brainwash me, he seemed like a nice guy. And, despite all, we had chemistry. At least on the dance floor.
He was sensitive, attentive, spontaneous – and though I’d never want to be in bed with him, I daresay someone would. Because in the end, all those things matter – at least to women – a lot more than a few inches of skin, nerve-rich though they be.

 

 

Comments

He was most likely European. American women are either for mutilation or not. He just wanted to know whether he should waste his time with you or not.

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

He asked because he had an agenda and a website, and a card with a website on it that he was handing out on the dance floor. I don't know too many Europeans who are so concerned with their sex lives that they create business cards and websites to detail their sexual questions. Also, if the guy were European, the article here probably would have mentioned that, as the writer seems to have a comic flair for incorporating such details

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 9:46 am

A new Associated Press article detailing that 17 states, including California (and most recently Colorado) have eliminated state funding for circumcision to help balance budgets, clearly shows that circumcision advocates' questionable claims of widespread support for their position, are false.

17 states don't see canceling this funding as a big deal.

It's high time to see what San Francisco voters -really- think about circumcision, not what right wing cultural reactionaries -claim- they think.

See the article at:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/health/2011/06/states-stop-circumcisions-...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

100+ boys die every year from this, countless others are left with botched circumcisions, some losing their entire penises, others having so much skin cut off that erections are painful.

It is well documented that even a run-of-the-mill circumcision amputates the five most sensitive parts of the penis, including 20,000+ erogenous nerve endings in the "Ridged Band" and frenulum, and destroys the natural gliding and protective functions of the foreskin. How can this atrocity be forced on non-consenting children?

Girls have been protected from all forms of genital mutilation, down the slightest pinprick, only since 1997. Don't boys deserve the same protection?

The cries of "Anti-Semitism" are absurd -- the Intactivist movement is being led by Jews.

~Barefoot Intactivist

Posted by Barefoot Intactivist on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

why won't you just leave that thing to the parents?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

For very good reasons, we do not leave it 'to the parents' to perform genital cutting on girls. Why then should we leave the decision 'to the parents' to similarly genitally cut boys?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

As a woman, to me this is by far the most offensive part of the "debate." Anti-circumcision proponents (men, usually) love to analogize run-of-the-mill male circumcision to female genital mutilation -- which is actually only rationally analogizable to basically cutting OFF the entire penis. It's so dismissive of activism to stop this awful practice that's done to little girls around the world that it really removes all credibility from anything else the anti-male-circumcision people have to say.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_circumcision#Type_I
I've pointed this out before. Note Type 1A, which is very analagous to male circumcision.

The point is that there are many different types of female circumcision, some of which are nearly exactly comparable. And *all* of them are banned.

Why is this so? Because what matters most is not whether they're more or less harmful, but the *principle* of "My Body, My Choice."

That principle is universal.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

That attitude is such nonsense. Are we comparing suffering like penises now, to see whose is bigger?

There is -nothing- run of the mill about male circumcision.

Both male and female genital cutting are outrageous, patriarchal, neurosis driven, torturous, sadomasochistic, sexual attacks on little children, and -both- should be stopped precisely -because- they arise from the same abusive impulses.

If you doubt how bad male circumcision is WATCH the video that I've already posted twice here.

Go to:

http://www.nocirc.org/

Then look for the video frame with Dr. Dean Edell in it, start the video, and forward it to the 9 minute mark.

No one with ethics and even an ounce human empathy can watch that video and then assert that male circumcision is 'run of the mill'.

Educate yourself for god's sake.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

As a woman and a feminist, I disagree with your assertion that this is "the most offensive part of the 'debate'." Male circumcision is anything but "run of the mill". Not when 75% of the penis is routinely cut away. The practice is responsible for the deaths of about a hundred boy babies each year, not to mention all the complications, trauma and excruciating pain of the procedure.

Moreover, I see this as a feminist issue. You have to wonder how the suppression of pain and empathy affects males in later life. As J. Steven Svoboda reports, "Developmental neuro-psychologist James Prescott found that domestic levels of violent crime, particularly violent sex-related crimes such as rape, grew in direct proportion to the rise in the number of sexually active circumcised males in American society." The author of this article does not speak for me as a woman, and neither do you.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

Svoboda sounds like a quack, you sound profoundly ignorant, and dollars to doughnuts you're a bitter dude who chose a female name because you thought it would be more persuasive. Pathetic.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 7:31 am

Troll Alert! "Svoboda sounds like a quack," just personal attack

Posted by vigilante on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 9:56 am

Soroya Mire just wrote a book about her experience of being "circumcised" in her culture of origin. It is called "The Girl With Three Legs".
She is passionate advocate for intact genitals on all children.

If you look carefully at male circumcision and compare it to female circumcision, you will find it falls midway between the extremes of FGM. Removal of the clitoris involves maybe 2-3 square inches of (adult) skin and about 8000 nerves. Removal of the foreskin involves about 15 square inches of skin and 20,000 nerves. So removal of the labia as well would "equal" a typical male circumcision, in terms of skin lost and nerves lost.

Worth nothing too is that the ability to orgasm and feel pleasure, is not eliminated in either case.

To find male circumcision as NOT equivalent to FGM, - regardless of the severity of the sexual loss and damage that occurs, is (to me) a profoundly sexist position.

I am sorry that you think we lose "all credibility." We certainly can't shape the reality to accommodate your preferences.

It is CERTAINLY true that FGM occurs and keeps occurring because it is a "cultural practice". By not ending our "cultural practice" of MGM, we give tacit and explicit support to FGM cultural practice. If you oppose FGM (and think it should be ended) then ending MGM over here will help to make it happen.

Posted by Guest Yeoman Roman on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 5:12 am

Men with a foreskin are way easier and more fun to give full stroke gliding handjobs. Cut men lack the flex and glide to the shaft. ANd masurbation of a natural man is way more fun for him, if he is cut those men can not jerk off properly

Posted by Kate Miller on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

Thanks for you comment. It's totally true that there's a difference between how cut and uncut guys handle themselves – or how you handle them. But what's "properly"? My point is that, regardless of how you view the legislation, this type of rhetoric is damaging. Would you say what you just said here to your circumcised partner?

While I was writing this article, I had the following conversation with a fellow in a cafe – a nice, normal, good-looking 20-something that I didn't know from Adam – after explaining the article I was writing. (This type of thing ensues when you're watching videos of "rhythmic masturbation" in public places.)

Me: Well, I don’t want you to think that this is what I usually talk to strangers in cafés about, but what are *your* personal views on circumcision?

Him: (Laughing) I could not care less.

Me: How would you know if you couldn’t care less. I mean, you’ve only ever experienced on point of view, right?

Him: I guess.

Me: So … you’re circumcised.

Him: (oddly enthusiastically) Totally.

Me: That’s good. I mean, the only thing worse than total circumcision is partial circumcision. But seriously, they say that you can’t masturbate properly.

Him: (understandably enthusiastically) Well, it’s been working so far.

Note: the fellow said I could use his name – and it's too good not to. It's Alex *Hancock.* If he's not an authority on masturbation, I don't know who is.

Posted by Emily on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 1:15 am

"What's properly?"

Natural is properly. Are you really trying to tell me you prefer that tight rigidness that comes with giving a circumcised man a handjob? It is horrible when you know how it is actually supposed to work.

Posted by Dan on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

I support the initiative and oppose nonconsensual circumcision, but it is not like circumcision is a death warrant for the penis or for penile sexual pleasure.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 10:23 am

Can't jerk properly? Really?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 10:03 am

How do you feel about Female genital mutilation? It was only banned in the US 15 years ago. By nerve count the male prepuce has 4 times as many nerve endings as the females clitoris, and when you take frequency into consideration - circumcision is one of the most blatant and widespread crimes in America.

You disgust me with your ignorant Rhetoric.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 4:57 am

Gee Emily. I'm sorry that you're offended that your dance partner whispered something inappropriate in your ear. Some people are upset that someone sliced off a part of their bodies without their permission.

While a dance may not be the best place to discuss any human rights issue, whether it be FGM, parental notification of abortion, whatever, I find your casual and callous dismissal of the whole issue incredibly insensitive and juvenile.

This line particular really had me shaking my head:

"According to the MGM bill’s own website, 90% of male babies already leave Bay Area hospitals intact. It would be foolish to pass a ban based on the assumption that masses of infants are senselessly whisked away to be docked while their mothers, drugged-up and dopey, lay unawares."

Wow... this is so wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

You seem to be saying that because it doesn't happen very often, that's just fine and dandy. So if female circumcision happens rarely, that's a good argument to let it happen in the few cases when it does???

Your over-the-top sarcasm misses the point completely. Their mothers are aware. But it's not their MOTHERS' body, is it?

And please, please, PLEASE, can we stop talking about a ban already? Calling this a ban is completely inaccurate. The initiative would allow circumcision, but would let the person whose body it is decide. Maybe calling it a ban makes you feel better about dismissing the initiative -makes it seem more extreme that way. But the fact remains that it's NOT a ban.

Rather than ridiculing people who feel that this procedure is hurtful, why don't you take a minute to put yourself in their shoes?

And no, it's not enough to say, "well I found a man who doesn't feel that way," so that justifies my position. Good for him. He'll still have that choice, because this is not a BAN. This is a preservation of individual choice.

Oh, and since it seems to be so hard to get this point across, did I mention that this is NOT A BAN? What do you have against the concept of "my body, my choice" Emily?

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:16 am

Nothing at all. Which is why I try to remove my opinion, a woman's opinion, from the equation. There are plenty of pro- and against- articles out there, and this one is neither. I'm simply trying to point out a few recurring themes (on both sides of the debate) that the decision *shouldn't* be based on.

I don't usually enter the comment fray, but I tried to make that clear in the article, and if it didn't come across there, I needed to say it here.

Posted by Emily on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:56 am

Removing women from the decision is not possible or wise.

Male and female genital mutilation are two sides of the very same coin. At the very core is the fact that -both- are performed without permission on boys and girls for one primary reason, to control their sexuality; whether they like it or not.

This basic reality unites both and establishes both together as a central issue of -very- fundamental sexual and bodily human rights. We are together in this.

And this struggle is also crucially representative of the fundamental need in human civilization to let go of archaic, prudish, hierarchical traditions of power and control which began thousands of years ago with the rise of organized agriculture. The latter resulted in accumulation for profit, and triggered motives in the most successful accumulators of seeking to dominate others through things like war, controlling of land, limiting access to democracy and freedom, and controlling the very bodies of everyone below them (even their own children); especially through violence, sexual oppression, and through the strict, domineering withholding of resources and human connections with others.

Indeed the planetary impacts which arise from this obsolete historical and social mentality, are now threatening to destroy human civilization and the entire living planet itself.

So this supposed fringe issue is actually central to the need of human civilization to leave archaic patriarchal domination and violence behind, and to evolve into a far more loving and ecologically harmonious way of organizing ourselves.

That is what circumcision is really about.

And finally the obvious... Women comprise at least half of the voter base.

This of course means that people who deeply care about this issue and its more profound implications as described above, need all women to help make the decision. To succeed in passing the ballot measure, we badly need women to fully participate in, and truly understand this debate.

So your responsibility to vote on this measure, demands that you discard your automatic shame based rejection of your role in it, and properly get involved in this very real issue of civil and life rights, and human evolution.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

Emily, you were perfectly clear. Greg was being abrasive and offensive in his comment.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

Just woefully misinformed and snarky to the point of insensitivity.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

As a lifelong aficionado of penis and a Jewish male subjected to bris, and based on my extensive field research into the matter at hand, I'm going to weigh in on the side of the ballot measure.

Intact is better and the decision on permanent body modifications should be made by the individual when he is capable of legally consenting if they so choose, not by the parents.

My understanding is that there is space within Jewish practice for a much less severe drawing of blood to signify the covenant, far short of a radical, complete resection. The ritual nicking could easily satisfy religious needs in such a harm reduced, non-irreversible manner until a young man can make his own informed choices.

If this fails, professional clinicians should wait until the eighth day to make their snip money because that's when everything "sets right." That is one aspect of harm reduction in circumcision that Jewish tradition got right, that and wine.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:41 am

It's an archaic practice, whether religious or in the name of "sanitation". It became popular at the turn of 20th century by prudish Victorians as a way to reduce masturbation in boys and using the excuse of cleanliness and disease prevention. There used to be a war against self-pleasure, women were put in asylums who were caught masturbating too much. Boys and girls were physically punished for their natural curiosity. I think we as a society have moved past this thinking, which includes systematic circumcision of male infants. Let a man decide if he wants it done when he is an adult. Simple as that.

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:47 am

Emily, you were born with 2 breasts right? In fact, 100% of females are born with 2 breasts. Certainly you don't consider either one of them "extra"? And yet here you are talking about "extra skin" like you are discussing some birth defect.

Your cultural bias is pervasive. Also, isn't the last line defense in protecting a child its mother? Yet here you are saying "this isn't a female issue" Or do women not give birth anymore?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:08 am

A circumcision article with a picture of banana? How original! Never seen that before!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:09 am

Great article! You know you got your point across when angry Intactivists storm the boards of the SFBG complaining of your insensitivity and cultural bias for not indulging your dance partner's sorrow over the loss of 1/2" of foreskin as an infant.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:20 am

Enjoy your dried out, rough, scarred penises you ignorant *****

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

LOL. Funniest comment so far in this inane debate.

Have had plenty of circumcised penises in all of my orifices and don't remember a single one as being "dried out," "rough," or "scarred." Perhaps this initiative should be renamed the "Protect the Pretty Penis Act" instead!!!

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

Lucretia,

" sorrow over the loss of 1/2" of foreskin as an infant. "

Well, A infant girl's clitoris is just a tiny thing, maybe 1/4", so cutting that off shouldn't matter right?

And her breast buds are tiny too, so they shouldn't matter much either. ( Plus that will prevent breast cancer too!)

Anyone lamenting the loss of these is just being overly sensitive aren't they?

Actually the 1/2" of foreskin is 15 square inches of "clitoris" in the adult male. It's loss abnormalizes sex profoundly, despite Emily's lack of awareness on the issue, or yours.

Sexism is just as ugly on women as it is on men.

Posted by Guest Yeoman Roman on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 5:27 am

But you've made an excellent point. Sexism, Lucretia-style, was always pretty ugly. We won't miss her.

Posted by Woman with clitoris intact on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

I agree with you that the focus of this discussion should be the owner of the anatomical parts and how he is affected. However, your "foreskins, women want nothing to do with it" line is just your ideas, not the view of women generally.

On the blogs and comment pages there is almost an equal number of women that say that natural sex (as opposed to cut penis frankensex) is important for their pleasure during vaginal sex. Many also say the cut scared member looks bad (dried up, unnatural). Of course many women say cut looks better. IMO, the last view is not just cultural, but also because cut looks like a natural erect penis (the sate that women would naturally encounter a penis).

My take is that women are a factor in all of this. I am happy that many will shoot down pro circ moms for wanting their child to have a sexy member. I think the males pleasure during sex and masturbation would be a more important factor, but many moms don't want to think of the baby having sex (maybe they should not). Women do however help make the decision as to whether a male will lose 20000 fine touch and stretch nerve endings and a source of pleasure for LIFE. Women decide if some of their babies sensory system will be shut off.

Labiaplasty was an analogy poorly chosen as it is female genital cutting (DUH). Also, most FGM (female circumcision or female cutting) is clitoral hood and labia cutting. That is less sexually damaging than what they do in the US to baby boys. Also, don't you know that dulling male sexual pleasure has been a known aspect of male circumcision for thousands of years with Jews of the past understanding and accepting that it is sexual sacrifice? Both FGM and MGM have always been pushed for the same reasons, to dull sexual pleasure, for crazy ideas about being clean and for LOOKS.

It is way past time that parents started to consider what the parts do. Yes, besides some protective function, the purpose of the parts involves sex. It is clear to me that the reason this is an issue now is that the internet has allowed people to communicate about this ancient lost knowledge. Otherwise it was hushed up by prudes and those trying to pass the mutilation on to the next generation.

Whatever you may think about sex with a natural penis or one engineered by a doctor or ritual cutter, IMO, women that particularly enjoy vaginal sex (have regular vaginal orgasms) enjoy a partner with a natural penis more. They enjoy the feedback the man gets and the fact that a natural man has timing control. These may be minor issues (as some have said) or not so minor (as others have said). Of course if a condom is involved, it really does not matter for the woman. But condom or no, natural is always more pleasurable for a male.

His body, his right to natural pleasure.

Posted by Jackieno on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:53 am

I agree with you that the focus of this discussion should be the owner of the anatomical parts and how he is affected. However, your "foreskins, women want nothing to do with it" line is just your ideas, not the view of women generally.

On the blogs and comment pages there is almost an equal number of women that say that natural sex (as opposed to cut penis frankensex) is important for their pleasure during vaginal sex. Many also say the cut scared member looks bad (dried up, unnatural). Of course many women say cut looks better. IMO, the last view is not just cultural, but also because cut looks like a natural erect penis (the sate that women would naturally encounter a penis).

My take is that women are a factor in all of this. I am happy that many will shoot down pro circ moms for wanting their child to have a sexy member. I think the males pleasure during sex and masturbation would be a more important factor, but many moms don't want to think of the baby having sex (maybe they should not). Women do however help make the decision as to whether a male will lose 20000 fine touch and stretch nerve endings and a source of pleasure for LIFE. Women decide if some of their babies sensory system will be shut off.

Labiaplasty was an analogy poorly chosen as it is female genital cutting (DUH). Also, most FGM (female circumcision or female cutting) is clitoral hood and labia cutting. That is less sexually damaging than what they do in the US to baby boys. Also, don't you know that dulling male sexual pleasure has been a known aspect of male circumcision for thousands of years with Jews of the past understanding and accepting that it is sexual sacrifice? Both FGM and MGM have always been pushed for the same reasons, to dull sexual pleasure, for crazy ideas about being clean and for LOOKS.

It is way past time that parents started to consider what the parts do. Yes, besides some protective function, the purpose of the parts involves sex. It is clear to me that the reason this is an issue now is that the internet has allowed people to communicate about this ancient lost knowledge. Otherwise it was hushed up by prudes and those trying to pass the mutilation on to the next generation.

Whatever you may think about sex with a natural penis or one engineered by a doctor or ritual cutter, IMO, women that particularly enjoy vaginal sex (have regular vaginal orgasms) enjoy a partner with a natural penis more. They enjoy the feedback the man gets and the fact that a natural man has timing control. These may be minor issues (as some have said) or not so minor (as others have said). Of course if a condom is involved, it really does not matter for the woman. But condom or no, natural is always more pleasurable for a male.

His body, his right to natural pleasure.

Posted by Jackieno on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:54 am

"wholly without consequences"? Really? REALLY??? Because if you have a foreskin it will invariably become infected right? Not just a minor infection either, but to the point of requiring amputation?? There's no possible way someone could go through life without being circumcised at birth and not have any issues right???

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

Emily,

I'm sorry some of the posting here are so freaky and aggressively angry! You know how activists can be sometimes; motivated only by emotion!

I sincerely appreciate many aspects of this article. As a circumcised male who never had a choice in the matter, though, I believe the issue comes down to one word: personal choice.

A male is born with anatomical parts intended for him by nature. Comparing and contrasting it with Female Genital Mutilation, which is horrific by any standard, is an unfair relationship. Whether one or the other is worse is without bearing on the matter at hand: that the loss of a boy's foreskin is regarding as nothing major.

In adulthood we can choose tattoos, body piercings, hairstyles, plastic surgery of all sorts and even (quelle horror!) make-up to improve, attract or feel better about themselves. When a boy is circumcised at birth, there is no longer choice for him. And he can never get his foreskin back. Though adult circumcision will be fixed in the memory of the man who chooses it, and though some circ'd men say "I'm so glad it was done in infancy," that does not solve the issue for boys who have the choice made for them.

It is illegal to tattoo your infant. But it is not illegal to circumcise him. This seems a strange imbalance.

As you state, sexual preference all depends on subjective factors and the woman's pleasure may or may not be affected by her partner's circumcision. However, there is no question that male sexual pleasure is affected - not to mention the distinct, though remote, possibility of complications in this routine surgery. If even the possibility exists for 1 boy to lose his member (which has happened), lose part of his member, or worse - die - from this surgery - why do it? To what benefit except for assimilation into the American society which favors it?

Thanks for posting this article and for reminding yourself that, like abortion, this surgery should be the man's choice. When he is an adult.

Posted by Guest Tommy G. on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

Or is it about the rights of infants, or society's right to make choices for people's children? I can't keep it straight since it has become so muddled.

It is untrue that "male sexual pleasure is affected" by circumcision. I have had friends who because of medical reasons were circumcised in their 30s. All of them, without a fault, said there was absolutely no difference in sexual pleasure after being circumcised.

Now, the pain of the operation on the other hand - they all said that was pretty awful.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

Or is your brain incapable of processing more than one idea at a time?

You can argue anecdotally that men say it's no different. Good for them. That doesn't change the fact that there are *some* men who do say it's diferent, and there are studies that back it up.

That said, throughout this debate, I've refrained from focusing on the sexual pleasure argument. I think the personal choice argument is the trump card here. Unlike you, I admit that I don't have the One And Only Truth. I posted a summary of the Wiki article on circumcision, and for me it raised more questions than answers. There are scientific studies that make a strong case for circumcising, or not.

You're digging in. Your position is becoming more extremist by the day, because to hold it you have to completely ignore all the evidence on the other side. I don't. I recognize both sides have their points. But the bottom line for me always comes down to choice.

And incidentally, about the pain aspect. You argue it's painful, and you're right. But then you dismiss the pain that little babies feel, and oh how they feel it! If you had bothered to read the wiki article, you'd see that there's now a consensus in the medical community that it's painful as hell. And yet, when it's done in infancy, virtually no mohels use any anesthetic whatsoever! That's just barbarism cloaked under the guise of tradition. Even among doctors, a mere 45% do. That's what happens when you leave it up to the parents -people with archaic attitudes totally dismiss their children's pain because the baby can't say, "Mommy, it hurts really bad!" One more reason to wait till you're an adult. If for some reason he wants to have it done at that point, at least the guy can open his mouth and say, "You better be giving me the damn anesthetic, doc!" All the more reason to leave the choice to the individual.

I just don't see on what basis anyone can keep arguing that people shouldn't have a choice over their bodies!

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

Mohels use alcohol and alcohol is an anesthetic.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 8:35 am

You're talking to a health professional here. Alcohol is a disinfectant, but definitely NOT an anesthetic!

If I used alcohol to anesthetize any part of my patients' bodies, they would sue and I'd have my license yanked. And you don't have to be a health care professional to understand this. Just do an experiment and try putting alcohol on the next cut that you have. If mohels use only alcohol, that is torture. pure and simple.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

because the whole article was filled with sarcastic digs aimed excusively at one side, and there was no attempt at empathy for the other side. I'm not an "activist" by any means. I didn't even think about this issue at all beore this initiative came along. I came to the conclusion that the only morally acceptable position was to let each person decide for themselves, after hearing both sides of the conversation. But Emily's article does its best to make people like us look like freaks.

I got the distinct impression that the "research" she did was more to gather material for making sarcastic comments, rather than any attempt to understand, as when she notes that she looked at the website with a "mixture of consternation and bemused curiousity."

The article is filled with misinformation and non-sequiturs. Hint, Emily, just go to Wiki and read the article on female circumcision. You'll find that there are quite a few types, some much more/much less "invasive" than others. Pay special attention to Type 1A, which is actually quite analogous to male circumcision. The line between the two is not as sharp as people want to portray it. And yet, it's *all* illegal. As well it should be.

Emily indicates that she's fine with the state intervening on behalf of cats to protect them from declawing, and children to protect them from happy meals. So let me get this straight... it's fine to take parental choice away when it comes to happy meals, but letting men make their own choices about their own bodies is too much of an intrusion by the state? When the implication is that cats should have more choices than people do over our bodies, I'm sorry, that's just messed up.

I stand by what I said earlier. The article was hurtful, insensitive and superficial, and it invited the responses that it got.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

Yes, thank God San Francisco has halted that menace. I mean - things were getting REALLY scary there for awhile with that Happy Meal threat.

San Francisco is now safe for children. Well, it WILL be after we deal with this circumcision menace. Too bad the schools suck and there's no housing but at least we'll have Happy Meal-free, uncircumcised children to enjoy what's left!

Greg - quit the "neutral arbiter" act. It's clear you're neither.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

At least not anymore, anyway. Unlike Emily, I actually did look into both sides with an open mind, without a preconceived opinion one way or the other. After that I came to the only conclusion I could, given that I start from a philosophical position of harm reduction and autonomy over one's own body wherever possible. You, on the other hand, are digging in to an increasingly more extremist and untenable position. In order to keep holding it, you have to ignore half the evidence out there, and ignore certain difficult questions I tried to ask you on the other thread, like what do you tell a 13-year old whose parents want to force him to do it, and he's wailing that he doesn't want to. Tough luck? Basically, you have to take the position that minors have no rights to their own bodies, but even then only male minors with regards to this procedure. It simply doesn't stand up to logic.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

Basically. As I've told both you and Eric before - kids don't get choices. It's quite clear both of you have very little experience with raising children, because it's not a democratic process. There's no bargaining and for the most part, unless the parent is abusive or neglectful, the parents make the rules.

You and I have a fundamental disagreement on that. You may feel that along with imposing your judgement on what parents can feed their kids (Happy Meals) and where their kids go to schools (no neighborhood schools) you now have a right to impose your learned judgement on this issue. I don't. We disagree - it's that simple. So let the voters decide. But I do know one thing - that the slippery slope of "bans" in San Francisco is leading someplace increasingly intrusive. These "bans" produce little positive results and will eventually result in someone feeling like they have the right to impose their judgement on your choices.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

You know, a few years back I worked to defeat parental notification for minors who want to get an abortion. The Christian right tried 3 times to get this passed. I guess some places people think this way -children have no choices over their bodies.

Me? I think differently. I don't care if she's 12. If she wants to have an abortion, and she doesn't want to tell her parents (let alone ask their *permission*), I believe she has that right and the state should protect her. Fortunately most Californians share that view, as do about 3/4 of this wonderful city.

To me this is no different. It falls under "my body, my choice," but I guess some people are still living in the past.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

The kind that doesn't believe in parental notification for abortion.

Infants and children are two different things. You make it more and more clear that you're really not that intelligent and quite incapable of understanding nuance.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

that you'd tell a 13-year old "tough shit."

Your position is totally inconsistent from post to post.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

not when a child is 13. The only reason a boy of 13 would be circumcised is if there were a medical condition requiring it. The latest some Muslims circumcise is before 10, in Turkey it occurs when the boy is 8. If you're going to denigrate religious practice then at least take the time to LEARN when it's done.

As usual you're creating an "exception proves the rule" case, a classic fallacy, to try and prove your point.

I suggest an "It's the PENIS - not the PARENTS" campaign slogan, complete with a giant, illustrated cock shot. SURE to gain your side victory.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

when circumcision "should" occur? There is a lot of controversy whether or not it should occur at all. I think it's reasonable to wait till the child grows up and can decide for himself. If you read the Wiki article, it would have become clear that any "benefits" if there are any, don't accrue till adulthood, while a lot of the risks occur during the procedure itself.

The scenario I gave was not hypothetical. There have been lawsuits over just that kind of thing.

The point I was making is that your position is totally inconsistent to the point of incomprehensibility. First you say children have no rights period ("tough shit"), then you say there's a big difference between children and babies, then you say it's fine for a girl to get an abortion without parental knowledge but a male child can be forced to circumcise. Is there an age cutoff? At what point does the child get a choice over his own body in your world? When he's old enough to scream? When he's old enough to say that it hurts in proper English? Is there a particular age at which Secretia would let a child decide? And who made you the arbiter of that age anyway?

If you're constantly having to shift the bar, maybe it's time you actually listened to the other side for a change rather than just trying to score rhetorical points and re-evaluate why it's so threatening to you to give a kid a choice of what to do with his own body?

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

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