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[Warning: parts of this post are a little TMI.]

Dr. +Jesse Bering, with all the respect in the world for your educational background, I must say:

How dare you assume that marginal perceived benefits in adulthood in ANY WAY justify blanket circumcision of infant males. This is one hell of a logic stretch, and as a Ph.D., you should know better.

Yes, Dr. Bering, I have seen friends waste away and die of AIDS. I'm gay, so I've seen the epidemic firsthand -- both the initial explosion in the 1980s, and now the complacency-driven uptick in the last decade. I don't wish it on anyone, not even my own female cousin, who died of AIDS-related complications while serving as a poster face for the HIV/AIDS denialism movement.
(http://blog.guyn2gear.com/2011/04/goodbye-and-good-riddance-karri-stokely.html)

I am beyond suspicious of using perceived lower STD transmission rates for HIV and other infections as a justification for infant mutilation. Matter of fact, I'll quote the same "money quote" you did:

"Systematic evaluation of English-language peer-reviewed literature from 1995 through 2010 indicates that preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure. Benefits include significant reductions in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections." (emphasis added)

I'm not heterosexual, and neither are you, so why does this have any relevance to me? Let's do a little thought experiment:

This lower likely risk of STD transmission is not because of specific types of bodily contact, as we know that some sexual practices common to non-heterosexual contact (in particular, anal sex) are notably riskier than traditional heterosexual sex. That leaves exactly one very obvious -- pink-elephant-in-the-room obvious! -- contributing factor: lack of proper use of condoms. So how about we focus on teaching safer sexual practices, rather than mutilating an infant's body with lifetime repercussions?

Circumcision should be an option for males with the capability to understand and consent to the procedure. That doesn't imply that the procedure only be performed on "adult males"; certainly most teenage boys are perfectly capable of understanding the process. I would have been.

But I didn't get that choice or consent. Sure, it was a "quick, safe, minor procedure" when I was an infant, too, and the procedure has changed very little since then. However, I now have extremely tight shaft skin, and severe penile nerve damage, as a result. I have abnormal physical trouble reaching orgasm -- success being on the order of once in every three to seven attempts, and it has been this way since I was a teenager. I have been physically damaged for life because I was circumcised as an infant under the alleged health benefits touted at that time. I am living testament to the damage that blindly circumcising infants can cause.

Do you know to what kind of mental side effects that level of sexual frustration can contribute? I'm going to be on strong antidepressants for the rest of my life (even though those medications can complicate the problem by tweaking libido and serotonin factors). It's likely that I will eventually have to start medication for this condition directly to tweak the orgasm response threshold, via a compound such as cabergoline, that has its own side effects that I'm not particularly keen on experiencing.

Though heal scars from circumcision later in life can be more dramatically visible (I doubt the veracity of this common claim, considering modern phalloplasty techniques), a child who has at least passed puberty is more physically developed, and is much less likely to suffer accidental removal of too much skin and other tissue through circumcision. This makes the risks, in my mind, far lower by moving circumcision to a later phase of life.

I continue to assert that infantile circumcision is a barbaric practice that should be done only in cases of absolute medical necessity (such as overgrowth or inability to expose the glans) -- and even then, by only removing just enough skin to ensure proper mechanical function. Any further bodily modifications should be done when the child can at least understand the risk trade-off of circumcision and make an informed choice about it.
Health & Medicine | circumcision | Jesse Bering, PhD, is regular contributor to Scientific American, Slate, and other publications. He is the author of the recently released book, Why Is the
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30 comments
 
Let's cook up some stupid crap to justify 4000 years of male genital mutilation because god demanded it. I am circumcised. I think it's a stupid thing to do to a baby. My son was, but only because he had a birth defect that required it.
 
Health issues aside, it is abundantly clear that it is impossible to effectively compartmentalize circumcision bans from racist ideologies.  This is not to say that all promoters of such bans are racist -- I'm sure many are completely dedicated to health and choice views on this.  But I am saying that these campaigns inevitably play into the hands of racists, as they have for literally 1000s of years.  You'll recall the jerk who ran the SF campaign, who claimed it was all about choice and health, then started distributing classicly racist Nazi-imagery comic books.  Unfortunately, many ban proponents appear to be utterly ignorant of the history in this area, and at least a modicum of study would be recommended.
 
+Todd Vierling By the way, over all the centuries that this issue has come up, it almost never is explicitly framed by ban proponents as a religious issue, even though the bans would obviously have enormous implications for specific religiously-oriented groups.  Again, it seems clear that ignorance of the history in this area is widespread.
 
+Todd Vierling Again, I am not saying you are racist, or even that most people who promote such bans today are racist.  I'm saying that such bans are fundamentally intertwined with racism at the functional level and cannot be considered in isolation.
 
+Todd Vierling The medical side of this is between doctors and parents -- it has to be.  The reality is that you cannot delay the choice without instantly invoking the religious contexts.  If I had a magic wand and could change history to my liking, I'd probably arrange things differently, but there is a fundamental reality here that means infant circumcision ban proponents are inevitably (however unintentionally in many or most cases) getting in bed with the outright racists.  Again, the SF campaign experience is highly illustrative.
 
+Todd Vierling By the way, I have copies of those racist comic books from the SF campaign, if you've never seen them.
 
Circumcision is genital mutilation, and should be illegal. Proper condom use and taking a damn shower will go a much longer ways towards preventing disease than chopping off some skin.

I wish I had something useful to contribute. Sorry :\
peter k
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Circumcision should be an option for males with the capability to understand and consent to the procedure.

i don't think that's too much to ask.  infants don't need it.  nor do per-pubescent boys.
 
+Todd Vierling You'll notice that efforts to ban circumcision of infants are generally resulting in bans against such bans.  Again, history teaches us why.
peter k
 
+Lauren Weinstein why are you hung up on the banning aspect other people are addressing instead of addressing the (non)necessity argument +Todd Vierling is making?
 
+peter k If you've read my comments, you'll have seen that I'm explicitly in favor of maximal honest information being available.  
peter k
 
i did read your comments.  i repeat my question.
peter k
 
so you're arguing that religion is a rational basis to mutilate infants?
 
+peter k when you rephrase it like that, it suddenly becomes much harder to defend, eh?
 
+peter k I won't be baited.  My discussion above is clear.  It is also clear that you are either ignorant of or purposely ignoring the historical record on this issue.  
 
+Todd Vierling Invoking an issue with thousands of years of historical social and religious context without moderating the resulting thread -- without having it run astray -- is, uh, nontrivial.
 
+Todd Vierling It's sort of like opening a jar of honey.  You may like or dislike honey on rational grounds of odor or taste or health issues, but once it's sitting there open it tends to attract flies.  The honey isn't necessarily at fault, but it's impossible to ignore the flies defecating all over it.
peter k
 
yes, but while speaking to "momentum" is informative. it's rather more fruitful to try to change the "momentum".  stating the practical situation is useful, but the focus on a justifications without commenting on how to change those justifications is derailing.

neither tradition nor religion are suitable justifications for mutilating children.  nor is intersectionality with racism.
 
+peter k You'll have much better luck limiting the context of discussion after you've stamped out racism.  Good luck with that.
peter k
 
so +Todd Vierling raises some of the rational bases of evaluating the validity of circumcision.  and he presents an rather person example of what happens when an irrational basis is selected (in another arena).

what should be the rational basis of justifying circumcision?
peter k
 
yes, cultural normativity is difficult to address, but clearly it can be.  when i was coming out, i never expected to get married to my husband in my lifetime.

and things as deeply rooted in a national psyche as racism is in the us psyche is not going away overnight or maybe not even in my life time.  i know this, i experience racism regularly when i'm out in the larger swm dominated us society.

but it remains these things improve over time, particularly if we question why tradition or religion are reasons to continue with a practice.
 
I'm all for banning child mutilation. Not just physical, but mental as well. Ban religion for underage people, like alcohol.
 
+Todd Vierling +peter k And in fact, this is really not an example of political momentum but a really good example -- arguably the oldest I can think of offhand -- of cultural momentum.  This topic is only on the short list of issues for activists, and most politicians don't want to go anywhere near it.  But the thing about cultural momentum is that historically, attempts to abruptly interfere in this context -- even in cultural aspects of far shorter duration -- tend to almost always become entwined with racism, xenophobia, misogynism, homophobia, and the like.  And history is cluttered with wars and genocides that can be directly related to this.  That's the sorry saga of humanity.
peter k
 
i'm not going to try parse the difference between political and cultural.  i'll just reduce it to momentum for right now: the tendency of groups of people to continue what they have been doing.

change has to begin somewhere, and while those beginnings can be shocking, it doesn't always end in widespread violence or turmoil.  i cite the rise of feminism in the usa, the increase of lgbt rights in the usa, and reduction of racism in the usa.  these were not small changes, and yet usa didn't descend into chaos.

it's worth noting which forces are fighting against these kinds of equality, because being caught unawares can be harmful.

i think the type of disruption +Lauren Weinstein brings up have a different etiology than social justice changes in general.

but i suggest the scope of that is beyond the scope of this post.
 
all other arguments aside, it makes it look bigger and easier to clean, and I've never once wished I wasn't circumcised. 
 
oh HELL NO would I let someone take a knife to my dick after I am a conscious human. Baby or nothing says I. Besides it doesn't really heal right on an adult - we aren't swimming with those wonderful stem cells
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