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Since the major anticircumcision group is called, rather cleverly, RECAP (RECover A Penis), and since the letter below refers to an exchange in the column going back years, I think a recap might be in order. Way back when, I briefly shared the militantly anticirc bench with the rest of the loons, although I must admit I did not much enjoy their company. By the time I ran the original columns I'd oh hell, here's the original, slightly edited:
"I have actually put a great deal of consideration into my stance on circumcision, or rather, lack of one. Growing up Jewish among Jews, plus growing up American in an era in which American boys were just sort of automatically clipped, like Dobermans, I never really gave it much thought. Then I became a sex educator and a huge advocate of consensuality in all things ... and developed a fairly militant opposition to cutting healthy parts off innocent children. Then I talked and talked with men and men ... plus attended my nephew's bris, which was lovely, and by the end I was all, 'Huh. Well, this is problematic, but I think people are making too much of a fuss.'
"There's no question that the procedure is both unnecessary and nonconsensual, and it's obvious that the nerve-rich, self-lubricating, and glans-protective foreskin is meant to be there. But most men get along just fine without theirs ... get plenty of pleasure out what they do have, and are able to leave behind whatever grievances they might have against their parents and the medical establishment."
While I'm waxing autobiographical, I'll add that since I wrote that, I found myself rekindling a romance with my roots, having a nearly irony-free traditional Jewish wedding, and eventually not only agreeing to circumcise my son but basically insisting on doing so. I'm still against routine, pointless medical circumcision, but I don't think I'd be welcome on the radical anti bench anymore. Sorry! Maybe Savage will sit with you. He's interested in penises.
I think it goes a lot deeper than that the sensitivity-loss issue alone. Having part of one's sex anatomy removed without your consent can tap into some strong and perfectly valid feelings of violation. It can involve a lot more than a simple "OK, I have lost X amount of sensitivity, but hey, I can still enjoy sex, so no big deal." What does one do about feelings one is not supposed to be having and that nobody takes seriously?
I liked your statement about American boys being "automatically clipped, like Dobermans." I hope you can see how being treated like a dog can be somewhat dehumanizing. Sure, parents and doctors had the best intentions, and I suppose we can look at it as a medical mistake carried out when there was less medical information and less consideration for ethics and individual rights, but that doesn't mean we have to take it lying down.
Sit idly by and accept that doctors continue to perform the same surgery on infants that should not have happened to me a couple decades ago without speaking up? I wish more people had spoken up then maybe I might have escaped this needless surgery.
Another Concerned Penis Owner
PS Circumcision is apparently protective against HIV, and we all know Africans can't possibly be educated and entrusted to use far more effective and far less invasive measures than surgery to avoid contracting the virus. I read a press release that actually listed circumcision first among a list of preventative methods: "All avenues and approaches toward prevention need to be pursued, including circumcision, condom usage and antiretroviral drugs..." I suspect that circumcision does not hold a candle to the efficacy of a condom or a sensible approach to sexual conduct. And what of education? That American doctors might start using this as yet another reason to circumcise babies (despite the fact that the United States happens to have one of the highest HIV rates in the modern world and by far the highest routine circumcision rates) is a whole other topic.
Well, it is, and it isn't. I think you're having a perception problem. While you understand intellectually that routine circumcisions are in fact less common every year in the US, your intense investment in the subject is making it hard for you to see that there is no evil scalpel-wielding cabal for you to rally against. The American Association of Pediatricians is officially anticirc. Even I am on your side. You're winning.
Africa is another question. The sad truth there is that no, education is not enough, and no, condoms are not enough. There has been no shortage of either, and still the epidemic rages. Right now circumcision looks good very good as an additional weapon (nobody's arguing against education and condoms) against a disease that is wiping out villages and leaving generations of children to starve in the streets. Up against that, a foreskin really is just a few inches of expendable flesh.
Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don't do that. Just ask her a question.