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Foreplay

A proposed San Francisco ballot measure prohibiting circumcision arises from a debate over ritual, sexuality, and identity. What’s become an American norm might soon again be a mark of difference.

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At the San Francisco Pride parade, 2008. (Caitlin Childs/Flickr)

This November, San Franciscans will likely be asked to vote on a measure criminalizing circumcision and imposing thousand-dollar fines and even jail time for violators. With petitions for ballot initiatives due in April, the Committee Opposing Forced Male Circumcision expects to have well over the 7,168 signatures that it needs to get on the ballot. Thus the Bay Area, already a hotbed of anti-circumcision activism, is about to become roiled in a debate over foreskins. “Once we qualify for the ballot, I’m hoping we can enlist people from across the world to come to San Francisco and help us do the legwork,” says Tina Kimmel, one of the activists behind the initiative. Even if they lose, they’re relishing the attention. “It’s wonderful that we’re getting so much press,” she says. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

In a way, it’s odd that San Francisco, of all places, would be the site of such a challenge to multiculturalism. Male circumcision, after all, is a hugely significant rite in both Judaism and Islam—indeed, one salutary result of San Francisco’s ballot initiative is the way it has momentarily united Jews and Muslims in their opposition. But while the removal of the foreskin has long signaled a Jewish boy’s entry into the community, for circumcision opponents, it signals the intolerable toll that custom and clan take on the individual. A complex debate about individual versus community rights hinges on that single primal cut.

That complexity, though, is often eclipsed by hysteria. Anti-circumcision activists—or “intactivists,” as they rather cringingly call themselves—are a lot like Free Mumia people. They have a point, but their self-righteous intensity does little for the credibility of their cause. They regularly compare male circumcision to the clitoridectomies performed on girls in parts of Africa. Male and female circumcision are “hands down exactly the same thing,” says Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, compares a boy’s dawning realization of his foreskinless state to a girl whose parents tell her that “one in eight girls is going to develop breast cancer, so we decided to cut yours off.” Kimmel insists that circumcision is on the way out, just as “stoning adulteresses to death has gone by the wayside as people become enlightened.”

There’s something at once poignant and unsettling about the amount of pain and rage men in the movement express over their own circumcisions. On one forum devoted to foreskin restoration, a man describes how, only a week earlier, the scope of his loss had hit him, waylaying him with “resentment, grief and anger” that leaves him in tears. His post was titled, “Will I ever feel complete?”

Mark Reiss, a retired physician in San Francisco who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home in New York, had an epiphany about the horror of circumcision when his first grandchild was born. “When I realized what I had lost and will never get back,” he says, it was traumatic. He’s convinced that having sex with a foreskin is inconceivably exquisite. “I will have never experienced a full sexual experience,” he says. “To talk to circumcised men about the intact state and what the full blown sexual experience is like, is like talking to a blind person about seeing.”

It’s hard not to suspect that such grief is about something more than a missing foreskin. Circumcision, after all, is a potent metaphor for parental betrayal and emasculation. The anti-circumcision movement gives men a powerful explanation for the sense of loss and declining potency that usually attend aging. Milos says she most often hears from men in their 40s, who begin having trouble with sexual performance and ask, “What’s happened to my penis?” One explanation may be that they’re suffering the effects of their circumcision. Another is that they’re getting older.

Scientifically, the results of research about circumcision and sex are mixed. There have been numerous studies of men who have been circumcised as adults. In some, the majority report that sex improved afterward. In others, the majority said sex got worse. The “decrease in penile sensitivity that resulted from circumcision bordered on statistical significance,” reported a 2002 study in the Journal of Urology. But a 2005 study in Urologia Internationalis found that 38 percent of men found “[p]enile sensation improved after circumcision,” while 18 percent said it diminished, with the majority reporting no change.

Yet even if circumcision is not usually experienced as the life-destroying mutilation critics describe, there is something strange about the custom’s persistence, particularly among pork-eating, Sabbath-ignoring secular Jews. “Circumcision has always been a procedure in search of a justification,” says Chapin, and she’s not wrong. In the Jewish tradition, of course, the brit milah lies at the very core of God’s covenant with his people. But as Jews grew more secular, ancillary reasons for circumcision emerged. In the Victorian era, it was said to prevent masturbation, which is one reason that gentiles in both the United States and England adopted it. For modern liberals, the idea of circumcision as an impediment to onanism is, if anything, a strike against the practice, evidence that it really does impede sexual pleasure. But as early reasons for circumcision have been eclipsed, new ones have emerged, particularly the procedure’s role in protecting men against sexually transmitted diseases.

Still, the medical evidence is ambiguous enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics makes no recommendation in either direction. Reason alone does not explain circumcision’s survival. There are still vestiges of religion involved, things that don’t quite make sense in secular terms.

It’s absurd to compare male circumcision to female clitoridectomy. Yet when doctors, in an attempt to mitigate the harm of female circumcision, have proposed introducing forms of female genital cutting that are less severe than male circumcision, they’ve been attacked for capitulating to barbarism. Last year, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics proposed allowing doctors to perform “ritual nicks” on baby girls to satisfy their parents’ demands for circumcision, but the outcry was so great that the AAP had to withdraw the policy. If merely pricking a baby girl’s genitalia is wildly controversial, but cutting a boy’s genitalia is routine, it’s because of the very different civilization meaning we ascribe to the two acts.

And in that sense, circumcision contravenes some essential liberal values. It is evidence of a sexual double standard. It’s a painful and bloody rite whose purpose doesn’t lie in any immediate medical need. It marks a boy as a member of a group in a way that precedes his own decision-making, challenging the individualistic belief in a self-created identity.

Indeed, in the future, circumcision will likely once again become a mark of Jewish—and Muslim—difference. Non-Jews seem to be moving away from it—last year, a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2009, only 32.5 percent of newborn boys were circumcised in the hospital, down from 56 percent in 2006. In 2002, Sweden passed a law regulating circumcision, mandating, among other things, that a doctor or nurse administer anesthesia. Most Swedish doctors refuse to perform the cut, seeing it as a violation of a child’s rights, and some politicians want to ban it for children under 18. Last year, the Royal Dutch Medical Association put out a statement calling for a “powerful policy of deterrence,” arguing, “Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors conflicts with the child’s right to autonomy and physical integrity.”

Some progressive Jews are turning their backs on it as well, embracing an alternative ceremony known as a brit shalom. Reiss runs a website that lists rabbis and cantors nationwide who will preside over the ritual, and he is about to officiate at one for the first time. “It’s happening more frequently as the generic population in the United States circumcises less,” he says. Nor is this an entirely new phenomenon. As he points out, “Jews have been rebelling against ritual circumcision for centuries. In Germany in the mid-19th century, there was a group of reform rabbis who wrote papers on it.”

As the practice falls out of favor in the secular world, the circumcision wars will probably only get more heated, because they’ll be about a minority religious custom, not an American norm. If male circumcision comes to be seen as harmful, after all, it will be hard to justify it on religious grounds alone without also justifying less-invasive variants of female genital cutting. At that point, proposals like the one in San Francisco might seem less preposterous and more, well, cutting edge.

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How wonderful to find the talented “Diasporist,”
……writing about……The Diaspora! Keep it up, Ms. Goldberg.

Meanwhile, circumcision is being urged on all males by medical authorities in Africa and Asia because of the enormous and low risk, low cost, life saving effect in reducing HIV and AIDS infections.

Unfortunately, when males identify themselves with a body image, all sorts comparisons become invidious.

Jerome says:

Many medical procedures are done on a child without the child’s consent. Notwithstanding this fact,I, for one, do not miss my foreskin. But if the decision was not made for me as a child and I was given the choice when I was 18, I don’t know if I would have made the decision to part with it.

If the majority want to opt out of circumcision that is fine with me. I, however, cannot abide a nanny state wrapping its protective hands around my member.

Carl says:

This reminds me a little of the vaccine/autism story. There are proven medical benefits to circumcision and people want to endanger their children’s future health so that they can feel good about themselves. As for all these men wailing about their circumcisions–they have waaay too much free time on their hands.

Dr. Michael Zidonov says:

All of the Medical and other considerations aside … Ha’Shem told us to do it … Why, is there any Question ???

Ken Besig, Israel says:

The ongoing war against brit milah is a direct result of the war on Judaism being waged by the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements.
These two Jewish sects have long since abandoned or rejected the Torah laws of Judaism, the Halachah, and replaced them with either pagan liberal politics, or with nothing.
Reform and Conservative Judaism abandoned Kashrut and Shabbat observance decades ago, believing them to be irrelevant to their largely secular membership anyhow.
Now due to the massive rates of assmilation among their few remaining members, Reform and Conservative Judaism have supported this horrifying assault on the one remaining tenet of Judaism which has bound Jews together as a People for thousands of years. Indeed a religious practice that Jews fought the Greeks, the Romans, and many other pagans to maintain, that is, these faux Jews have decided to outlaw brit milah.
Is American Judaism, or at least the secular and almost pagan Reform and Conservative movements trying to eradicate themselves?
It looks more and more like it!

Oddly, the two schmucks in the photograph appear to be circumcised.

this is definitely old news. out here in the bay, no one really cares anymore about this. its a dead issue (pun intended!)

Frank Joseph says:

Right before I saw this headline, I saw this other one: “Male circumcision decreased risk for HIV, no risk compensation observed in Uganda”. Are they nuts in San Francisco, or what?

Here’s the link to the Uganda study (which appears on an MDLinx website, pretty reputable): http://patientlinx.com/MensHealth/thearts.cfm?artid=3507094&specid=43&ok=yes

What next? Ban the Old Testament. Ban kosher food. Ban synagogues. Start with circumcision, then Bar Mitzvahs, then then and then. Frankly, despite the stupid hysteria of this article, I very much doubt that support to ban circumcision among Jews is as widespread as posed in this article.

Steve from Raleigh says:

Well at least the Jews of San Francisco can then make an informed choice about whether to convert to Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or whatnot. I would hope that San Francisco also requires all circumcised Jews to wear a pink star or some uniquely identifying trim. And of course Kosher must be criminalized as well as all B’nai Mitzvahs.

Francisco Uber Alles.

Marty Janner says:

San Francisco the city where individuals have always had the right to define themselves differently, is now being exposed to a campaign to impose a restriction that has very little merit in my opinion!

As a person of the Jewish faith, who has had this terrible injustice done to him, I never knew that my whole body was affected by the removal of this minute amount of foreskin. There are far greater concerns for the populace, for example homeliness, unemployment, the loss of the individual’s right to engage in collective bargaining for the betterment of their family! Perhaps my thinking is all screwed up! My first consideration should be this issue.

How unfortunate, that these people are so shallow in their thinking, that this given area is foremost! Get a life, and pursue avenues that may enhance the lives of those around us!

How unfortunate

Sisors says:

Lots of people in San Francisco with nothing to do!!!! Forget the foreskin and get to work!!!

It angers me that the hyperbolic arguments of the anti-circumcision camp have caused such pain, self-loathing and despair among young men who,at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives,fall prey to this unproven and unprovable nonsense.In the last twenty years the ubiquity of this propaganda has influenced many adolescents who,as they age,will attribute any and all sexual dysfunction to their circumcision.One young man even told me that his entire life had been “destroyed” by circumcision.Rational arguments can and have been made both For and Against the practice but this current hysteria contributes nothing but confusion and pain.

David Star says:

I have for many years been overwhelmed by the genius of San Francisco.
Many years ago in the late 1800′s the city was an important remount base for the US Cavalry. While the Cavalry may be gone the city seems to maintain the largest number of horse’s asses of any community world -wide.

How can you possibly have written an article on the circumcision debate without discussing the procedure’s documented prophylactic benefits in disease transmission?

This, by way of example, is from the World Health Organization:

There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. Three randomized controlled trials have shown that male circumcision provided by well trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe. WHO/UNAIDS recommendations emphasize that male circumcision should be considered an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence. Male circumcision provides only partial protection, and therefore should be only one element of a comprehensive HIV prevention package which includes:

the provision of HIV testing and counseling services;
treatment for sexually transmitted infections;
the promotion of safer sex practices;
the provision of male and female condoms and promotion of their correct and consistent use.

January 7, 2011 9:58 AM
Human Papillomavirus: Are Circumcised Men Safer?
Posted by Neil Katz 10 comments

(CBS) Is sex with circumcised men safer?

While the debate not be settled everywhere, researchers working in Uganda have added an important piece to the puzzle, especially when it comes to human papillomavirus (HPV).

They found women had a 28 percent higher risk of being infected with HPV by men who weren’t circumcised, according to Reuters.

That’s important news, because HPV can lead to cervical and other types of cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV, but it’s important to know that most HPV infections don’t do serious harm. They can cause nasty looking warts or do nothing at all.

Still not something that you want to mess with.

The study appeared in the Lancet and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Fogarty International Center.

Ken -

The Jewish Reform and Conservative movements are not the authors of this nonsense in San Francisco. I’d like to see any evidence you have that shows otherwise – any statements from the governing bodies of either organization.

It is my understanding that Conservative Jews, for the most part, follow the laws of kashrut, and both Reform and Conservative Jews observe Shabbat. There is a huge difference between secular Jews and Reform Jews.

Yael Taubman says:

why has nobody mentioned that the wives or steady partners of circumcised men have much very much lower rates of cervical cancer and other sexually transmitted diseases?
Good for Steve and Warren. I for one, would not have sex with an uncircumcised dick. I find it very repulsive, ugly and the one time I did, pretty cheesey, yuck.

kenneth walker says:

I think for health reasonswe should keep up the practice ::::It is rediculous for people to challenge this law of HEALTH>>>IT HAS PROVEN ITSELF AS A SAFETY PROCESS ;;;::I guess I always auto matically thought we were SMART PEOPLE AS A SOCIETY:;But when I see people fighting against something that is SOOOOOO obvious for OUR SAFETY ,I truely wonder where some peoples BRAINS are:::TRUTH IS TRUTH :::PERIOD:::Nuf said::::SMILE:::KEEP ON KEEPIN ON :::

From the Chicago Tribune of February 16, 2011 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, currently neutral on whether to circumcise, are drafting new policies in light of recent studies suggesting circumcision helps prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

So aside from cultural and religious factors, circumcision may now be considered in the category of a vaccination. That doesn’t mean that it should be required for everyone or anyone, but it is information a parent needs to know, and for Jews at least it is a comforting thought that once again their religious practice has secular benefits as well, just like the Good Book says. It certainly means that such a proposed law can be challenged as contrary to public health concerns.

I see no reason not to restrict the procedure to the age of consent, with a waiver for those compelled by religious and community standards to the eight day or age 13 requirements. I also would include this restriction to all forms of body modification including ear-piercing, (nose/nipple/navel/genitalia piercing) and tattoos to the age of consent. Let’s get the Indians and the bikers and the Goth and grunge crowds involved or jailed, yeah!

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Jan;164(1):78-84.
Male circumcision for the prevention of acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted infections: the case for neonatal circumcision.
Tobian AA, Gray RH, Quinn TC.

Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.
Comment in:

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Sep;164(9):883-4; author reply 884.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Jan;164(1):94-6.
Abstract
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) male circumcision policy states that while there are potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision, the data are insufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. Since 2005, however, 3 randomized trials have evaluated male circumcision for prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The trials found that circumcision decreases human immunodeficiency virus acquisition by 53% to 60%, herpes simplex virus type 2 acquisition by 28% to 34%, and human papillomavirus prevalence by 32% to 35% in men. Among female partners of circumcised men, bacterial vaginosis was reduced by 40%, and Trichomonas vaginalis infection was reduced by 48%. Genital ulcer disease was also reduced among males and their female partners. These findings are also supported by observational studies conducted in the United States. The AAP policy has a major impact on neonatal circumcision in the United States. This review evaluates the recent data that support revision of the AAP policy to fully reflect the evidence of long-term health benefits of male circumcision.

Sharon says:

There are proven medical benefits to circumcision and people want to endanger their children’s future health so that they can feel good about themselves. As for all these men wailing about their circumcisions–they have waaay too much free time on their hands.<<

There are proven medical benefits to circumcision and the attack on circumcision is such a transparent assault on Judaism. No one is grabbing men off the street and forcing them to undergo circumcision, but these people act as if this is the case.

As far as parents circumcising their infants, that is their business as parents. Parents have just as much a right to circumcise their baby boys as they have a right to have them immunized against childhood illnesses. And to compare circumcision with female mutilation really trivializes the harm committed against women and girls in Third World countries.

If some granola cruncher from California doesn't want his or her child circumcised (or immunized, for that matter), refrain from doing so. But don't try to force your silly notions on others who are minding their own business.

I don’t know about all of the supposed support for this among more secular Jews. I’m not an entirely observant Conservative Jew, and I think this is bullshit. What’s the difference between forcing circumcision and forcing people NOT to?

Gene says:

“Nothing is new under the sun” says Kohelet. Michelle, these young nuts from San-Francisco or just anybody should read the story “Karl-Yankel” written by Isaak Babel. It describes a court hearing, in which a young Jewish Communist sues his own mother-in-law for secretly circumcising his newborn son and naming him Yankl after a deceased relative. The baby’s father had proudly named him Karl – after Karl Marx, of course. In other words: “progressives” from San-Francisco did not discover “the wheel”, communists were the first ones who tried to prohibit circumcision. Now everybody can see how their experiment had ended.

George says:

I’m a secular guy, I didn’t visit a synagogue for years, but I’m willing
and ready to pray and wish for anyone who votes for criminalizing circumcision
to get Aids, Cholera, heart attack, stroke or a any combination of it.

perot says:

“To talk to circumcised men about the intact state and what the full blown sexual experience is like, is like talking to a blind person about seeing.”

Circumcision as an impediment to onanism? Hooray for Braille !!

Izzy says:

Now we males can utter the words “KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF OF MY BODY”.

Henry Hollander says:

As a Conservative Jew and a San Francisco Jew I would like to asked those posting here to refrain from their blanket statements of intolerance towards our community. San Francisco is a diverse community encompassing those with whom you disagree and those with whom you do agree as well as a wide range in between. I don’t think any of us will be swayed to your side by your hate though. And as far the cause of traditional Judaism and the fostering of a more traditional Jewish community in San Francisco goes, let me be very clear, your comments do harm only and no good.

Steve from Raleigh says:

Well to be fair, I can’t see the idiot communist fools of San Francisco angering the Muslims. Although watching the hippies get burned alive in the riots would be amusing. They genuinely would not know whether to run away or set themselves on fire in solidarity.

As an atheist of Jewish background, I’d like to say “hurray” that there may at least be a referendum somewhere in the US to try to stop this ridiculous, albeit fairly minor, human rights violation. Hopefully the tide will keep turning against it.

While there doesn’t seem to be a great loss of sexual function from it, there is probably some. As one of the group of men who have grown back a foreskin (by stretching the skin over the course of several years), I am very glad that I bothered to do so. Even though it is impossible to grow back the most sensitive part of the skin, it is still a major improvement, and not having been circumcised in the first place would have probably been a greater improvement. I suspect that studies of men who were circumcised as adults, who report little difference in sexual function, are a case of many of them not wanting to admit “buyer’s remorse” to themselves.

Any medical benefits from it would have to be greater than the tiny or nonexistent ones that studies have shown in order to justify allowing parents to have their kids’ body parts cut off without their consent, especially when it can be done later in life (even if not as easily, but usually with better results), when they can decide for themselves. In fact, complications are not uncommon from this procedure, and a small number of babies are even killed from it. Unless there is a good enough overriding reason (as there is with vaccinations, for instance), it is up to their kids to decide what to do with their own bodies.

I have talked with many men in the anti-circumcision and foreskin restoration movements, and have yet to meet anyone who is “hysterical” as this article says, though I don’t doubt that there must be a few. There are a great many issues more important than this. But while it may be a fairly minor human rights violation, it is still a human rights violation. We simply would have said “NO!” if given the chance. But we weren’t.

Rachel says:

Dr. Michael Zidonov says:

>>>>>> “All of the Medical and other considerations aside … Ha’Shem told us to do it … Why, is there any Question ???”

Has Hashem spoken to you *directly* or to anyone that you know personally?

I suspect opposition to circumcision will peter out, but for those not convinced, here’s another recent addition to the literature:

American Journal of Preventive Medicine
March 2011

Circumcision Denialism
Unfounded and Unscientific
To the Editor: Although three RCTs1–3 and dozens of
observational studies have confırmed that medical male
circumcision reduces the risk of HIV acquisition in men
by at least 60%,4 Green et al.5 continue to question its
effectiveness and would deny millions of men—and their
female partners—a proven, permanent, and inexpensive
method to reduce their lifetime risk of HIV infection.
Such denialism in the face of the ongoing pandemic are
unethical and immoral….

Joya Banerjee, MS
Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, South Africa
Jeffrey D. Klausner, MD, MPH
University of California
San Francisco, California
Daniel T. Halperin, PhD
Harvard School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts
Richard Wamai, PhD
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts
Edgar J. Schoen, MD
University of California
San Francisco, California
American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on
Circumcision 1988–1989
Stephen Moses, MD, MPH
Departments of Medical Microbiology
Medicine and Community Health Sciences, University
of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Brian J. Morris, DSc, PhD
School of Medical Sciences
University of Sydney
Australia
Stefan A. Bailis, PsyD
Research & Education Association on Circumcision
Health Effects, Bloomington, Minnesota

Rebecca says:

yet another anti-semitic rant from the politically correct nut house in San Francisco. Sure, not everyone who lives in the Bay area subscribes to this theory but as a reliable source of anti-Israel propaganda, it’s hard to take this latest movement seriously. It does a huge dis-service to the true horror of female mutilation to lump this in together. As for the medical reasons, does anyone really think that Abraham and G-d had a conversation of the benefits of male circumcision? doubt it……….
Muslims follow this? Sure, this is the same society that says that women showing even a wisp of hair creates sexual hysteria in men so clearly the circumcision theory doesn’t work. Why do Muslims insist on circumcising girls as adolescents? to reduce their sex drive. while this supposed movement would “help” Muslim men, I think that the help they need is in the sexual repression department, not in ways to reduce their supposed out of control sex drives.

Angry in Phoenix says:

Comparing male foreskin circumcision to female genital mutilation is a joke. The severity of ‘female’ circumcision is often the removal of the clitoris completely, up to the scraping and re-sewing of the labia majora, which removes/disfigures the vulva completely and has the intended goal of the removal of sexual pleasure. THIS is a human rights issue…losing a small part of your anatomy that has minor setbacks and some positive advantages is hardly in the same ball-park.

Let’s get the situation straight and in correct perspective. The male un-circumcision groups lose credibility with me when they grossly mis-compare themselves with FGM.

A proper comparison would be to remove the entire penis at the bottom of the shaft to be a truly accurate comparison. When that happens we’ll talk about human rights violations…

Dr. Michael Zidonov says:

RACHEL: Why are you even commenting on this Issue ??? What, does it possibly have to do with you, or any other woman ??? What stupid people call, “Circumcision” that the Moslems do to Females, is not Circumcision at all, but Butchery, Mutilation, Criminal Assault and Battery, and probably even Rape … But as horrible an act as that is, it has nothing to do with the Ritual that Ha’Shem instructed us to perform on His Male Children … Your challenge above is entirely too inane to even consider answering … A Frum Jew would never ask such a stupid Question … If you are a Jew, you Trust Torah, unquestonably …

Comparing Circumcision to female clitoridectomies, is the most ridiculous, stupid, moronic statements that I have ever read.
Where do these ignorant dumb people come from ? Circumcision does not
have any affect on sexual performance or pleasure.

This article correctly states that Jewish people and Muslims are united in their opposition to the ban, but it should be noted that at least some Jewish people and Muslims are ALSO united in in their opposition to circumcision! Please see Karen Isskenderov’s comments on the web site “Beyond the Bris.”

Louis Trachtman says:

Long ago, when I was a medical student and “routine” circumcisions were done on many newborn males in the hospital before discharge with parents’ permission, a nurse told me that circumcised males are more easily aroused sexually than uncircumcised males. I have never seen a scientific study dealing with this matter, but she seemed to know what she was talking about. Perhaps those who are against circumcision are against men having too good a time, when engaging in sexual intercourse.

Gevalt! Are there a lot of people in this world who are just plain nuts (not a medical term) or what?

David says:

Since the brit milah is part of a religious ceremony, it is likely a constitutionally protected practice and custom. The law can easily be defeated should it ever get that far. That this is coming from an ultra left-wing place like San Francisco is unsuprising and that the “intactivists” (Really?) are acting in a doctrinally conflicted manner (i.e. championing the rights of the voiceless child about to undergo the cut while at the same time defeating multi-culturalism in a most intolerant manner) is hardly surprising. Uber-libs (and for that matter uber-cons) are great at compromising their own values in their glee to champion the cause du jour. In short, these people are dreadfully boring and shrill-sounding and their histrinoics over the loss of foreskin borders on sophomoric comedy.

nick says:

This is far more straightforward than some of you realize:-

1. Babies feel pain – medical fact.
2. At a traditional bris the baby will not be anaesthetised against the pain. In US hospitals the baby is frequently not adequately anaesthetised, therefore the baby is in pain during the procedure.
3. As parents you are inflicting pain on your child.
4.The foreskin contains fine touch nerve endings, the ridged band, and the procedure causes scar tissue to form in the place of these nerves – fact.
5. A normal vagina produces smegma like an uncut penis. Fact. Smegma comes from the latin word for detergent.
6. I’m Jewish, went to a bris, heard the guttural scream from the baby and knew that I was witnessing something barbaric. You’re Jewish and in denial if you’ve been to a bris and not been upset by the baby’s pain.
7. If you are pro-circumcision you are a sheep. You haven’t got the stones to break through your own layers of denial.
8. In a few decades the majority will think that cutting off a healthy part of a person’s genitals is disgusting. You will be ashamed of yourselves for not realizing sooner. Good luck with that.
9. This is not about Ha Shem, this is about your responsibility as a parent.

Kasey Frix says:

An adult has a right to choose their practices, but frankly your religious freedoms end where someone else’s body begins.

Elizabeth says:

It is also a significant part of the culture of some to have ‘pure’ daughters. Its their culture and if you asked them its their religion too. They cut their genitals to remove sexual pleasure and will even go as far as to kill girls who have premarital sex. Is this okay? Does their culture and religion give them sufficient permission to mutilate and commit murder? Of course not!! Why does our culture give us the “right” to cut pieces off of our sons while giving our daughters protection against even the smallest pinprick? Its sexist.

By the way the ‘original’ circumcision didn’t completely remove the foreskin. Unless you looked really closely you wouldn’t have been able to tell a circumcised man from an intact man. So if you are going to use religion as your excuse at least do it right and let the kid keep most of his foreskin.

My body, my right! There is no medical reason to amputate the foreskin. Screw women’s health. If your worried about women getting STDs sew their vaginas up at birth. I don’t care about bogus African studies. Nice way to oppress the poor, cut their erogenous parts off.

I would never cut my baby boy in such a way! Any god who asks his people to harm their children is not worthy of praise. I am terrified of the kind of people who are unable to question barbaric tradition. And sucking the blood from a child’s penis?? Anyone care to discuss that? That tradition is just shameful! Good thing they banned it after so many Mohels gave babies diseases. Good for SF! If I lived there, I would certainly vote for this ban.

Annette says:

Stating profalactic benefits of circumcision is silly. Circumcised men can and still do get STD’s. Look at the high rates of HIV/AIDS and the high circ rate in the USA.

Wash it, don’t engage in high risk sex, and use condoms.

As for childhood considerations: Care for a normal (read intact) penis: wipe like a finger, don’t retract. Find a Dr. Who is knowledgable about normal male genitals.

Look, no unethical surgery required.

Girls are legally protected against any genital cutting, nicks, circs, alterations, surgeries etc for reasons cultural, or religious.

Boys deserve the same protection under the law. MGMBill.org.

If as an adult he feels the need to participate in circumcision as a religious rite that is his right.
However he might want to compare the circumcision commanded by God to what picked up in popularity around 140AD.

So because I am a woman, I have no right to say anything about wanting my son to maintain his genital integrity until he is old enough to decide for himself what to do with it? That is the most ridiculous and sexist thing I’ve ever heard. So that means that men should have no say in what their daughters have done to them at any point in time? The bottom line is this: it’s not your body, therefore it should not be your choice to permanently alter it.

Jay Sybe says:

This is an absolute violation of human rights. To strap down a minor to cut their genitals for no reason is inhumane. Whether it slightly lowers their risk of contracting HIV is of no concern to me. It is the parents duty to protect the child,protect your child’s body, his rights, his genital integrity. Much more effective forms of protection (called CONDOMS) exist and are much more reliable. The facts are it is his RIGHT to choose to have a portion of his body altered, and until he is 18, no one has the right to cut anything off. If he so desires to have it done when he is old enough, so be it. This should not be a decision that even has to be made HIS BODY = HIS CHOICE.

Martin speaks nothing but the truth when he says:

- More than 100 babies DIE as a direct result of circumcision every year in the US.
- Circumcision causes PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE and in turn makes men more aggressive.
- The US has the highest percent of it’s population in prison.
- Look at the constant conflict in the middle east.
- Circumcision prevents NOTHING.
- The US has a higher rate of HIV and other STD’s compared to Europe where practically no one is circumcised.
CONDOMS prevent diseases. FACT. NOT MUTILATING A BABIES PENIS.
- Hygiene is not an issue, it takes less than 10 seconds in the shower, which you should be having each night anyway. I have one, I should know.
- Circumcision has a HUGE effect on sexual pleasure. Over 20,000 fine touch nerve endings are removed. (less nerves – less feeling – face the fact) To those who are circ’d and think otherwise. What the hell would you know, have you any conscious memory of even having a normal penis? Didn’t think so.
- Being exposed the head (glans) of the penis dry up, become desensitised. Again – Less feeling.
- Penile cancer is rarer than male breast cancer.
- Phimosis (tight foreskin) is EASILY treatable with steroid cream and light stretching.
- You think being strapped down while the most sensitive part of ones body is being hacked away from you with no form of pain killers isn’t going to leave you traumatised? Go try it out for yourself and tell me you are perfectly fine afterwards.
- Most if not all circumcised boys, after the mutilation are left with some form of Post-Traumatic stress disorder.
- You wouldn’t even think about cutting any other part of his body, but his penis is ok?

FACE THE FACTS.

This is a gross human rights violation and completely inhumane.

Anyone who disagrees with anything I have written is a sadistic baby mutilator that needs to wake up to the facts. If you sit there and watch it done and feel no remorse or empathy you have mental issues of your own.

Good day, you sick bastards.

Dave says:

Good to see someone stand up against genital mutilation. If you want to mutilate yourself have at it but it should not be forced on others especially babies that cannot defend themselves. And those that think it’s for health reasons are basing their opinions on outdated believes. It may be needed in a few rare cases but that is no reason to mutilate every male just because a few may get infections.
We have clean running water now. It’s time for this medieval ritual to die.

“That complexity, though, is often eclipsed by hysteria…their self-righteous intensity does little for the credibility of their cause…”
I think the last group of posters really deserve some thanks for demonstrating the authors points so well.
Some of my favorite points:
“Fact. Smegma comes from the latin word for detergent”
“I don’t care about bogus African studies. Nice way to oppress the poor, cut their erogenous parts off.”
“The US has the highest percent of it’s population in prison….Look at the constant conflict in the middle east…Most if not all circumcised boys, after the mutilation are left with some form of Post-Traumatic stress disorder…Anyone who disagrees with anything I have written is a sadistic baby mutilator that needs to wake up to the facts. If you sit there and watch it done and feel no remorse or empathy you have mental issues of your own. Good day, you sick bastards.”

circumcision is a crime ! it must be forbidden .

Lala says:

First, I’ve never heard any intactivist claim that male mutilation is exactly the same as a clitoridectomy except to say that it is just as much of a rights violation. The truth is that male mutilation is exactly like the removal of the clitoral hood which is the MOST practiced type of female mutilation.
In the USA, genital mutilation in illegal on girls regardless of reason, religion or tradition. It is wrong, it is horrible and I’ve never actually met anyone who disagreed with that statement, yet there are people who think it’s ok to permanently alter the sex organ of baby boys with no second thoughts.
It’s wrong. Plain and simple. There is NO reason good enough to justify mutilating anyone’s body without their consent.
BTW, I got HPV from a circumcised man. The rate of circumcision is high in the USA and the rates of HIV and other STDs are some of the highest in world, yet many countries that don’t practice circumcision have the lowest rates of HIV and STDs. Cutting a baby’s foreskin off is not cleaner, it’s not healthier and no one has a right to make that decision for anyone except themselves.
I’m a Jewish momma with intact sons!

“To talk to circumcised men about the intact state and what the full blown sexual experience is like, is like talking to a blind person about seeing.”

I never heard that one. I think it’s more like talking to a color blind person about what it’s like to see in color. I have also heard that when an intact man retracts himself (it can stay in a fixed position I guess) and walks around with it in that state, the friction that he experiences from his boxer shorts, gets him so aroused, that he has a hard-on for most of the day. THAT sensitivity is lost on the circumcised man. He has, what’s considered a calloused head. Devoid of his natural sensitivity after many long years of over-exposure. Kinda sad, if you ask me.

I’m glad to see an article attempt to cover this issue with balance.

The time to get worried about intactivism was 14 years ago when the FGM law was passed. Oh, but that only affected a Muslim tradition. Too late, now. 94% of the world lives under laws forbidding Female Genital Cutting, with no religious exception. You can’t FAIL to protect a boy from harm just because of his parents’ faith. Just ask a JW, LDS, Christian Scientist, Snake Handler, or Muslim, whose religiously motivated harms and/or neglects minors are legally protected from. Including a religious exemption in the SF circumcision ban would never pass constitutional muster.

In the US and Israel 3% of good Jews do not circumcise. Cutting him at birth takes away HIS religious freedom to be THAT kind of good Jew that places THOU SHALL NOT STEAL before the covenant of the 8th day.

The article mentions some Jews in the intactivism movement. I’ve been to intactivist rallies in Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, and by show of hands I found 20% of the protestors present were Jews. So US Jews are about 10 times as likely as members of the general population to be working to end infant circumcision.

Sander Postol says:

Secular or Orthodox, a Jewish male is circumcised, otherwise he is not Jewish. Fortunately, most of the anti-cicumcision people are not Jewish or are people who will not have children. Good riddance.

You call genital mutilation “multiculturalism”? I am a Jewish man who deeply resents having my genitals mutilated against my will when I was a defenseless baby.

I’m sure you’re aware that circumcision excises the most sexually sensitive part of the penis? You are aware that some boys lose their entire penises and even their lives, every single year, due to this procedure?

When the U.S. government banned Female Genital Mutilation in 1997, did you call it an “attack on multiculturalism”?

There is nothing more cowardly then sexually mutilating a baby. BAN IT. Just like with girls. The only difference between mutilating a boy and mutilating a girl is your own cultural bias.

~Barefoot Intactivist

I forgot to mention my project. I run barefoot to spread awareness about the genital mutilation of minor children, and why parents, doctors, and governments should not allow it.

~Barefoot Intactivist

Shanti says:

‎”Marilyn Milos”, has anyone noticed that the leader of the ‘anti-circumcision lobby’ has the name Milos.

I could be wrong, but is that not the Ashkenazic plural form of “Milah”.
G-d has an incredible sense of humour, B’H.

Wanderer says:

I keep hearing about health ”benefits”. Europe seems to be doing fine with their uncut penises and they are not falling over with hiv and hpv. If you think circumcision protects you that much, then go have unprotected sex with random people everyday for the next three months. BTW, I can’t believe circumcision is being promoted to reduce hpv/cervical cancer. As a man who has known quite a few women with cervical cancer, who had circumcised partners, and even some who RARELY had sex, I find this mentality highly offensive and dangerous. It is estimated that 75% of adults have, will have, or have had hpv. It is most rampant in college communities. Do you honestly think that % is made up of all intact men? No!
I don’t support this ban actually, but I’m getting tired of hearing all this bullshit about health benefits. I hear people say that being uncircumcised is so unhealthy, perhaps we Americans should loose some weight before complaining about foreskin. Being fat is more deadly than a foreskin will EVER be.
It’s people on both sides that make a big deal about it. Circumcision is being promoted in the media, by the government (CDC), and the natural penis is shit on by the American media. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on circumcision ”studies” that have even said themeselves they have little validity in first world countries. Yet the single mother with 3 kids and 2 jobs is dying from cancer because not one of her two jobs offer good insurance. Yet out schools are among their worst among first world countries.Yet we Americans EAT and EAT and EAT, but still waste half the food and now have a big mass of ”garbage” swimming in the ocean. But AT LEAST WE’RE PROMOTING CIRCUMCISION! Spending tens of thousands of dollars on research that could have been used elsewhere! Oh and another thing about diseases, I didn’t know circumcision was a magic bullet. AND HERE I THOUGHT CONDOMS WORKED!If circ isn’t a big deal, tell that to the media and gov.

-Peace

Old Rockin' Dave says:

Tempest in a teapot – when I found out exactly what I was missing, I realized I wasn’t missing anything important. Getting all worked up about it to the point where you devote large chunks of your time to pushing for laws is ridiculous; so many other problems need to be addressed so much more urgently.

Shanti says:

This issue gives me very mixed emotions. I have witnessed a Brit Milah, and have winced and gotten teary-eyed at what the newborn boy is going through. Somehow it seems like a horrible welcome to the world.

Having said that, the more I follow the Mitzvoth given by HaShem, the better my life is, and that of all those around me. The main objection from the ‘intactivists’ seems to be “less sensitivity to the male member”.
I can attest to the fact that, in my experience, circumcised males are as interested in having ‘relations’ as any other man.

This sounds like the war between the Greeks and the Jews all over again. Will they attempt to ban dentistry because it involves drilling the teeth in a person’s skull? Or plastic surgery? Or maybe being born; now that would save a person a “world” of pain!

In closing, I would like to mention the male rights of passage in areas like Africa, Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. These rights of passage always include pain and blood. A sociologist and/or anthropologist would understand the psychology behind this more than I.

I have, however, heard it said that males of every culture see the pain and blood that women have to endure from puberty onwards. They makes for themselves a similar ordeal, after which they become ‘men’. From fist-fights to jumping off high towers, from football to circumcision, it seems that maleness is proven in all cultures by pain and blood.

Don’t even get me started on 40+ years of pain and blood that we women have to endure…

Jacob Dulin says:

“I think the last group of posters really deserve some thanks for demonstrating the authors points so well.”

There’s no need to be a sarcastic arse… Circumcision upsets and infuriates people. Gee I wonder why? It couldn’t be the fact that they were deprived of sexually sensitive tissue on day 1 for dubious rationales, could it? Could it be that they feel hurt to learn that another person has all of his parts as nature intended, while they don’t? If anybody is entitled to ANYTHING in this cold and uncertain world of ours, it has to be their own body. End of discussion. As the “studies” have demonstrated time and time again, there is very little, if any, worth to circumcision in the name of disease prevention. Just drop it. I was circumcised at birth, I am not happy about it, and I support this ban.

How difficult is this to understand? It is logically inconsistent to be against ALL forms of FGM, but not touch male circumcision. Especially when some forms of FGM can legitimately be argued as less severe than male circumcision. Pinpricks on the clitoris anyone? Oh, sorry, that’s banned. You say you want to rip sexual nerve laden skin off of your boys penis and scarify it? Sure.

See how stupid that sounds? We could take it a step further by mentioning the cosmetic “arguments” people in favor of either kind of circumcision use.

“No man will marry her if she isn’t circumcised.”

Ever hear that one? Contrast with what you hear in North America: “No woman will like the way it looks.”

As you can see, there is a STRIKING resemblance at times… I wouldn’t toot your own horn if it is not without hypocrisy, in plain sight no less.

circedguy says:

Shanti wrote: “The main objection from the ‘intactivists’ seems to be “less sensitivity to the male member”. I can attest to the fact that, in my experience, circumcised males are as interested in having ‘relations’ as any other man.”

Your second sentence does not disprove the first sentence. Yes, circ’ed males have the same sex drive as uncirc’ed males – it’s just that circ’ed males will have less feeling when they do it. How do I know? I’m a circ’ed male and I hardly feel a thing when I do it.

Jacob Dulin says:

“This issue gives me very mixed emotions. I have witnessed a Brit Milah, and have winced and gotten teary-eyed at what the newborn boy is going through. Somehow it seems like a horrible welcome to the world.”

As well you should!

“Having said that, the more I follow the Mitzvoth given by HaShem, the better my life is, and that of all those around me. The main objection from the ‘intactivists’ seems to be “less sensitivity to the male member”.”

Then how about the emotional aspect of it? I grew up believing that my parents had left my body alone, and I was comfortable with this assumption. Much later, in my late teens, I learn that this was a blatant lie. I felt betrayed, and yes, even depressed, that I had lost what I considered to be a valuable part of my body. In a time where I was supposed to be going through self discovery, my discovery was disrupted and fraught with negative feelings and self hatred. I learned that my body had a contrived, artificial state forced upon it before I could get to experience life the way it was intended to be. Perhaps this sounds stupid to you, but it meant a lot to me. So much so to the point where I broke down and cried for days and I overslept. Suffice it to say I had genuine symptoms of a trauma and grief. How is this any different from what victims of FGM go through or say? That they don’t feel like a real woman? Well, I don’t feel like a real man. There you have it. My truth. Make of it what you will.

“I can attest to the fact that, in my experience, circumcised males are as interested in having ‘relations’ as any other man.”

Doesn’t mean that they still haven’t lost anything of potential worth. People that have lost limbs or a breast eventually cope and get by too.

“Don’t even get me started on 40+ years of pain and blood that we women have to endure…”

Then why allow any more needless suffering in this world?

zalel says:

Senior year of high school, in gym, I saw Charlie’s weenie. It was deformed. Later that day, after school, I mentioned his misfortune to one of my male friends. He laughed, and I was taken aback by my good friend’s callousness. I thought that he liked Charlie, and major disdain was the only possible explanation. “He’s uncircumcised, you dodo!”

HUH? How can one be uncircumcised, I wondered. Is that really possible? For a kid growing up in Brooklyn, it did not seem to be. I’ve seen a few kids get clipped, and it didn’t look so gross to me. And it proved that God’s not a man, so my spiritual horizons were broadened by that very important ritual. If those guys in San Fran are so squeamish, maybe they should take remedial bio, or pathology for dummies, and strengthen their tummies up. If they’re Jewish, maybe they have EJS*, from growing up in goyville.

*Embarrassed Jew Syndrome

Yitzhak Simcha says:

If you don’t want Yourself or Your Children to “clip your dick” than that is fine >BUT< don't take away my G^D Given Right (& Obligation) to Circumcision – This is a Commandment From G^D & Only An Obligation for Jews – So PLEASE Any Member of the other "Nations" don't do it & Again STAY OUT OF JEWISH BUSINESS~!

What madness is this? This crazy people in S. Francisco are confusing circumcision with castration.
Female circumcision is indeed a from of castration, but male circumcision is not so.
Circumcision is not a cause for crime or violent behavior, it does not cause PTSD, and it does not diminish a man’s sexual functioning.
I think this latest radical liberal madness will end within the next few years.

Sue Denim says:

Opposing circumcision is a “challenge to multiculturalism”? Of course not – adult males would still be entitled to have this cosmetic surgery performed. The rights of the individual to their own body take precedence over the rights of society. Is culture just about the state of men’s penises? Of course it isn’t. If the different ethnic and religious groups we met had all got intact genitalia, how would it affect us? Answer – it wouldn’t because none of us knows what’s in the pants of the person we meet!

The male foreskin has over 20,000 nerve endings not found anywhere else in the body. The female clitoris has around 8,000. Why is one so important, and the other not?

Besides, most female circumcision takes the form of removing the clitoral hood and parts of the inner labia – exactly comparable to the male foreskin. Trying to portray FGM as though it always takes the form of a clitoridectomy is cheapening the horror undergone by women who suffer the “milder” forms of FGM.

The author tries to trivialise the pain suffered by men who realise what they’re missing. It must, she insists, be down to something else. It can’t possibly be the realisation that someone held them down and cut off the most sensitive part of their genitals (Sorrels et al!) when they were helpless infants.

She tries to say that the reduction in sexual pleasure is a result of age – rather than the result of keratinisation which builds up over years of exposure to an external environment that the glans is not supposed to experience. Yet men who have restored their foreskins in their later years report a complete reversal of the effects of “ageing”, making it seem as though the foreskin definitely plays a role in preserving sexual pleasure into middle age and beyond!

Reports of sensitivity following adult circumcision need to be considered critically. Firstly, many men circumcised as adults have the surgery performed due to some kind of problem. The “improvement” they report co

Sue Denim says:

//”What madness is this?”//

Yes, it’s crazy thinking that people should choose what happens to their own genitals.

//”confusing circumcision with castration.”//

Not at all, castration is removal of the gonads, which prevents reproduction.

//”Female circumcision is indeed a from of castration”//

No, it’s not. It doesn’t damage the gonads, it doesn’t prevent reproduction, it doesn’t (as many ignorantly claim) prevent orgasm.

//”Circumcision is not a cause for crime or violent behavior”//

You should read accounts from some men who wish great violence to the doctors that cut their prepuces off. The effects of high cortisol levels (a response to pain) in the neonatal brain is not fully known, but could effect later behaviour. It’s known to decrease the pain threshold, and to reduce the immune response.

//”it does not cause PTSD”//

Several doctors would disagree – you should perhaps research this.

//”and it does not diminish a man’s sexual functioning”//

Just his ability to please his sexual partner (O’Hara and O’Hara found women said they were more likely to orgasm with an intact partner).

The sexual function is also radically changed, as the gliding action of the foreskin is obliterated.

So basically, Rafael, you’ve repeated ignorant myths about a subject you truly know nothing about. Would it be so hard to go and read up, so you’d actually have something true to add to discussion, rather than the same old pro-circumcision myths? Or are you too scared to learn about what you’ve lost?
I think this latest radical liberal madness will end within the next few years.

nick says:

To Rafael, Yitzhak and Z,

How bizarre.

Some of you really, really, REALLY want to cut off parts of babies’ healthy reproductive organs.

And those of us that don’t want to are seen as weirdos.

As I said in my last post, I’m Jewish.

The intactivists are not trying to hurt you or destroy the Jewish religion, they are trying to wake you up.

Identity may not be placed under the belt!

It’s important to find healthy dating with safe sex. There are currently 33 million people living with HIV in the world. 1 in 4 teen girls got stds in US. Sometimes it can take months or years to show up. Positivemate.com is a warm-hearted place to find true love, healthy dating with safe sex.

SeanJ says:

Alright this is just stupid, people who agree with this idea that circumcision violates human rights are bigger dicks than the ones seen in the photo. I’m circumcised, I don’t remember the pain, I don’t even miss the fucking piece! I’ve had no complaints from my wife…So who f’n cares! Also, if it weren’t for circumcision diry-ass motherfuckers would just spread bacteria and infections because they don’t clean it right. Male circumcision is hygenic, not religious, or anything else. But it’s your problem and your perogative to get circumcised or get your kid circumcised or not, and if not make sure you teach the little bastard to clean it right! Now female circumcision is just wrong…

Nick, your post just continues to prove the point I was making, which was that as the author states the zealousness and grandstanding of the anti-circumcision crowd is so off putting that it is almost impossible to take any point they make seriously. When the standard response seems to involve characterizing the opposition as butchers or barbaric, that tips off the fact that people aren’t interested in debate or rational discussion about it.
Also, for those that seem to think you can separate the ritual of bris milah from Judaism, I honestly can’t see how you can possibly try and rationalize that. It’s not coincidental that we use the bris to mark the entrance of the male into the religion, either through the naming of the baby or in the case of a conversion. There is a reason that when the Greeks and Romans were trying to destroy the religion they chose to outlaw the bris.

Hey, I’m a card-carrying Leftie (waaaaaaaay to the left) but I have a feeling I’d be run out of the Bay Area. Did it occur to anyone that Jews and Muslims practice circumcision out of religious beliefs and contrary to some of the postings here, it is NOT synonymous with the sometimes life-threatening, painful and dehumanizing practice of female genital mutilation? So… outlawing a religious (and not cultural) practice is a pretty loaded thing. Distinction: Circumcision is a religious practice. Mutilating your little daughter or marrying her off is a cultural practice. That said, I’m a bit more disturbed by the murkier depths of a lot of the left-wing sentiment when it comes to anything involving Jews (i.e. – “show us your Apartheid Week bona fides before we let you talk”). No, I’m not suggesting that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. I am saying that definitely, some of it is… and I’m disturbed by so much energy going into activism in Jewish areas while the Koch Brothers are slicing up our entire nation into two slices of pie and chowing down. Is this truly the best use of everyone’s efforts right now?

If you are required to look inside your underpants, everyday of your life, to know exactly what your true identity is…you aren’t playing with a full deck. Pardon the pun.

Dani ben Leb says:

There was an interesting take on this topic in a German broad sheet recently. On the Muslim “cut”, a psychologist pointed out that Muslims circumcise at six, which it at the height of the Oedipal phase, thereby screwing the boys for later life. She went on to find a connection to Muslim violence, especially amongst Turks in Germany since the kid is treated and dressed like a prince and is told he is a “man” now. Thereby associating manhood with violence.

The bris is in my mind harmless, since it is made so early and judging by the smart men, causes no issues.

I have a friend here in Israel who’s Olim dad had his bris after Aliya from Russia in the 70s. He says the sex changed from colour TV to black&white TV.

As an uncircumcised, adult convert to Judaism, I will soon undergo brit milah….and in San Francisco, of all places.

I’d be lying were I to say that I’m not VERY worried about the post-surgical change in sensation and, frankly, that I think this particular ritual an anachronistic aspect of the covenant. That said, I will have local anesthetic injected into the organ, and I’ve read (with relief) that these injections are the most painful part of the process – although one twenty-something convert described the local injections as “two hot nails driven into the head of [his] penis.” That I’m not looking forward to, but the 5-6 weeks of recovery (bruising and increased sensitivity that prohibits intercourse, touching, and even exercise) is even more unattractive!

Keeping these adult circumcision considerations in mind, it’s probably best to be “snipped” when you’re an 8-day old. Since I wasn’t, I now have to worry about involuntary erections tearing the healing penis and other equally unappealing complications that aren’t issues for a newborn (or, for that matter, a 6-year old).

I doubt I’ll suffer PTSD from the operation, but I do find myself rather torn on the issue. We’ve set aside temple sacrifice, but not the ritualized flesh sacrifice as symbol of covenant. It’s a curious issue, indeed.

‎”Oh dear! There’s this horrible, painful, traumatizing surgery that a grown man can’t handle! It’s too painful and hard for a man. I better make sure it’s done to my newborn son instead!”

Q: what do you call a forcibly circumcised baby with a wine soaked rag shoved in its mouth?

A: A gag order.

ilana says:

as a woman who has seen circumsized and uncircumsized men all i can say is a circumsized penis looks a lot better. comparing it to female circumcision is a horrid anti-female statement

Ilana, dear, your vagina isn’t all that pretty looking either. Maybe if there was less of it, it would be more appealing for your mate. :)

Thomas says:

“as a woman who has seen circumsized and uncircumsized men all i can say is a circumsized penis looks a lot better.”

Circumcising children because it makes their penis more attractive? Sounds perverted. The act of cutting off part of a baby boys penis is disgusting no matter how you look at it.

“comparing it to female circumcision is a horrid anti-female statement”

No one is saying routine male circumcision is better or worse than female circumcision (although the argument could be made that there are forms of female circumcision significantly less harmful than male circumcision). One could also argue that denying male infants the right to genital integrity that has been given to females violates the 14th Amendment. That is very anti-male.

Ger says: “As an uncircumcised, adult convert to Judaism, I will soon undergo brit milah….and in San Francisco, of all places.:

Dear Ger-

if you aren’t cut on the 8th day, it don’t count. The window opportunity slams shut on the 9th day. BAM! You are NOT ALLWED to wait until you are an adult to have a brit milah. Which means you are really cutting yourself short. lol. By the way, is your mom Jewish? Because if she’s not, you are doubly disqualified.

Wanderer says:

I find it funny when people say,”There are bigger issues in the world”. Yet they themeselves are commenting on the article, and probably weren’t doing shit to make the world a better place before reading this article, besides perhaps, throwing more plastic into the garbage can to pollute the earth. Or driving all 500 feet down the street putting smog in the air because they’re too lazy to walk down the street. I would NEVER call someone’s cause stupid. There are people that point and laugh at PETA, people that look at women that breastfeeds with disgust. And if complaining about circumcision is not a big deal, WHY ARE PEOPLE SPENDING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS PUSHING IT?! THAT money could be used for so many other things. Nobody has answered my question yet. And for you guys that say, “To prevent STDs”, if you really mean that then throw away your condoms.

I don’t even support this circumcision ban, but I’m appalled at the double standard in the statement,”It’s not a big deal get over it”. Tell that to the american media and government why dont you? THEY are the ones that make a big deal about NOT being circumcised. And don’t even say,”We need to circumcise to prevent disease”. Northern Europeans are pretty healthy in much all aspects, I think Americans have more health concerns to worry about than circumcision. So tell the CDC to STOP PUSHING IT, AND GET OFF YOUR FAT ASSES AND EXERCISE.

Most other first world countries have a higher male life expectancy than the US btw. Everyone commenting is so one-sided.
UGH!!!!

MrEguy says:

There is no acceptable rationale for the ritualized mutilation of a defenseless child’s genitals. It is unethical, immoral and inhumane. End of story.

Dear Ber,

DON’T DO IT! You don’t have to be circumcised to be Jewish. If you want, you can request that they just do a ceremonial pin prick instead.

Read Ron Goldman’s book “Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective.”

You WILL regret not having all of your penis. I repeat, DO NOT DO IT! Good luck.

~Barefoot Intactivist

PS Even if you do go through with it, that’s your choice as an adult. It’s not “best to be snipped at 8 days” — it’s best never to be snipped AT ALL! You cannot force genital mutilation on a baby, that’s illegal (though not currently enforced) and unethical.

That will be great if San Francisco is able to ban circumcision, and hopefully that will start a movement accross the country banning it.

No medical organization in the world says infant male circumcision does more good than harm. So it’s not justifiable or legitimate to circumcise baby boys for health reasons.

Circumcising baby boys is a heinous sexual assault and sexual battery comitted on minors. It should be banned everywhere in the U.S. and hopefully some day it will be illegal in the entire U.S.

badocelot says:

I’m not particularly for circumcision (I personally wish no one would do it) nor am shy about banning religious practices that violate human rights (there’s a lot in the Mosaic Law that I think should be forbidden). But the rhetoric of mutilation and individual rights is a non-starter: if male circumcision should be illegal, so should removing webbing between infants’ fingers and toes, or removing a third nipple. That’s a form of “mutilation”, isn’t it? Why not wait and allow the child decide?

And if you object that webbing or third nipples are deformities, while foreskins are how our bodies are supposed to be, I would refer you to G-d — who, if he does exist, presumably knows more about what’s proper for the human body than you do. Arguing about what’s natural or proper for the human body mires you in the very theological territory where circumcision can make sense.

Banning circumcision also treads on parental rights. These are the same set of rights, mind you, that allow parents to send their children to fundamentalist camps and schools to have their heads filled with all sorts of stuff — I guarantee you Jesus Camp did more damage to those boys than being circumcised ever could. Yet we allow parents to make these choices for their children unless there is a clear harm to them. As the article points out, despite the personal testimonies of a small group of men, this has never been proven in the case of male circumcision, and the experience of 3000+ years of male circumcision seems to testify against it.

Until that proof comes, a ban on male circumcision is rightly seen as religious discrimination and a threat to parents’ rights.

Thomas says:

@badocelot

1) The male foreskin is not a deformity.

2) If you can prove the existence of a God then maybe that argument would hold water.

3) Banning male circumcision you mean. I didn’t see anyone complaining about parental rights when female circumcision was banned.

badocelot says:

@Thomas

You might want to go back and actually read my post, as I address every objection you’ve just made.

Mike says:

I really don’t understand how this has to do with “parental rights” when more than 100 boys die each year from this procedure.

http://iinformedparenting.blogspot.com/2010/09/more-baby-boys-die-in-us-from.html

This does not include circumcisions done privately. Since when do parents have the right to decide whether to risk the life of their son?

badocelot says:

@Thomas

OK, seriously, your reading comprehension sucks, but I’ll be more specific for the sake of other readers:

“1) The male foreskin is not a deformity.”

I didn’t say it was. I asked why cutting it off was different from cutting off webbing or a third nipple.

By talking about “deformities,” you’re venturing into dangerous territory. You’re suggesting that there’s something the human body is *supposed* to be like, *objectively.* Otherwise it’s just your opinion against the parents’.

But how do you know that? Isn’t it equally reasonable (and more skeptical) to say that we’re all just what we are, and there’s no supposed-to-be’s? How are you on any better ground than those who believe G-d commands them to circumcise?

“2) If you can prove the existence of a God then maybe that argument would hold water.”

If you had actually read my post for comprehension instead of firing off cheap shots, you’d know nothing I said hinged on any deity’s existence. However, Jewish and Muslim parents *believe* and *believe* that he commands them to circumcise their children, and as far as I can tell they’re on no worse ground than people like you who are talking as if the human body’s somehow supposed to be one way or another despite not believing in G-d.

Now, I am quite willing to ban religious practices if they can be proven harmful. However, this has *not* been proven in the case of male circumcision — prove that it causes clear and substantial harm, and I’ll support the ban 100%.

But I won’t support it if the only reasons intactivists can come up with is that *in their opinion* the male human body is meant to have a foreskin or that they think, maybe, their sexual problems are related to their being circumcised.

“3) Banning male circumcision you mean. I didn’t see anyone complaining about parental rights when female circumcision was banned.”

Nor should they complain: female circumcision is a clear, lifelong threat to the girl’s health. Male circumcision is not.

badocelot says:

@Mike

That’s still an incredibly small number. According to http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/aabirthrate.htm in 2002 there were 4,019,280 births. While the birth rate is declining, if there’s about 3,900,000 children born in a year, only 0.003% die from circumcisions.

Also read on to the original article:

http://www.examiner.com/family-health-in-washington-dc/new-study-estimates-neonatal-circumcision-death-rate-higher-than-suffocation-and-auto-accidents

“The study found that approximately 117 neonatal (first 28 days after birth) circumcision-related deaths occur annually in the United States, one out of every 77 male neonatal deaths.”

In other words, for every one boy who dies of circumcision complications, SEVENTY-SIX die of something else. That’s about 1.3% of all male neonatal deaths.

While it gives me further reason to oppose circumcision in practice, I see no reason to ban it yet.

badocelot, it is evident and obvious that male circumcision does severe harm because of the sexual damage circumcision does. According to the Sorrells study which was done by a group of doctors in California, circumcision cuts off the 5 most sensitive parts of the penis. According to the late Canadian doctor John Taylor who did extensive studying of the nerve endings on the penis, male circumcision cuts off about 20,000 erogenous nerve endings. The nerve endings that are cut off by circumcision feel better than the nerve endings on the glans though, because the nerve endings on the glans give a mixture of pain and pleasure whereas the nerve endings in the inner foreskin give only strong feelings of pleasure. When uncircumcised males have sex they do it with short slow strokes, compared to circumcised males doing it with long, fast hard strokes, the only thing that could account for that is that circumcised males are much less sensitive. If you look into it, it is evident and obvious that male circumcision does a lot of sexual damage which is severe harm to many males.

Dan Klein says:

@Mike when they choose not to vaccinate they do.

THOMAS says: “The male foreskin is not a deformity.”

MR. BAD says: “I didn’t say it was. I asked why cutting it off was different from cutting off webbing or a third nipple.”

I think that the intelligent reader can see the inference, Mr. Bad. It’s as clear as day that you think the foreskin is a birth defect. If you are born with webbing or a 3rd nipple, the MD will actually make a note of this, as a medical birth defect. If you are born with a foreskin, this is not, never has, or never will be, noted by an MD, as a medical “birth defect”.

Regarding the”parental right” argument: IT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU. END OF DEBATE! This is how we explain things to small children when they have their hands on things that don’t belong to them. You can apply this rule to anything in life, (including the vagina) but for some odd reason, the male penis is the exception??

You have been programmed for 3000 years to believe that part of your body was false. Wrong. Bad. Defective. Ugly. Unimportant. Useless. But now we know better. We know exactly what the function of the foreskin is. We know why it’s needed and why it’s there. We know what happens to a penis that is stripped of the foreskin. Nobody knew those things 3000 years ago. It may just take another 3000 years for you to upgrade your software, but I hope, that for the sake of your beautiful son, that you get the new version, a lot sooner.

Sue Denim says:

For a man about to undergo a circumcision, this comment is extremely poorly informed.

//”Keeping these adult circumcision considerations in mind, it’s probably best to be “snipped” when you’re an 8-day old.”//

This is only a valid point if most or even many adults who are left intact choose to be circumcised. The vast majority DO NOT, so you wouldn’t be saving them from anything by cutting pieces off them as babies.

//”Since I wasn’t”//

Yes, how dare anyone respect the fact that you might NOT have one day chosen to sacrifice parts of your penis, and left that decision, about YOUR genitals, up to YOU?

//”I now have to worry about involuntary erections”//

Actually you will be given meds that prevent this – meds which aren’t given to babies (who also get erections which tear apart the healing wound).

//”other equally unappealing complications that aren’t issues for a newborn”//

But you’re blissfully free from complications that newborns might suffer. Like death from blood loss (100 boys each year in the US). Like death from associated infection (MRSA is higher in circumcised boys than intact). Like tearing of the glans (in babies the foreskin is fused to the glans). Like excessive skin removal (you’re not likely to grow any more now).

The original circumcision required by Judaism was just a pinprick to draw blood. The more radical removal of the entire prepuce came as a result of Jewish officials wanting to prevent Jews from concealing their identity. I’d suggest you get yourself a ritual nick, rather than having masses of erotic, sensitive tissue amputated.

Thomas says:

@badocelot

“Nor should they complain: female circumcision is a clear, lifelong threat to the girl’s health. Male circumcision is not.”

How is a female circumcision worse than male circumcision?

For those who continue to deny that circumcision causes harm, despite all evidence to the contrary, you should really consider joining the “Flat Earth Society”. Google it.

For over 3000 years people thought the earth was flat, hollow and square. The Bible speaks of ‘the four corners’ of the earth. How could something that was believed for so long, be so wrong? Especially if it is in the bible?

Turns out that the earth isn’t flat, hollow, or square! Amazing! And, that males actually DO need their foreskins!

Thanks for this thoughtful and balanced article.

Is “intactivist” any more cringe-worthy than “lactivist” or “peacenik”? (NB: intactivism is broader than “anti-circumcision activism”. It includes opposition to female genital cutting and non-essential gender-assignment surgery on intersexed children.)

“One explanation may be that they’re suffering the effects of their circumcision. Another is that they’re getting older.” A third is that these two things work together on each other.

The grotesque things they do to girls in sub-Saharan Africa are entirely comparable to the chop that boys get in southern Africa, which kills scores each year in Eastern Cape province alone. The minimal, surgical, genital cut known as “sunnat” done to millions of girls in Malaysia and Indonesia is entirely comparable to western male circumcision.

Abraham says:

I’m of Jewish background myself, though not religious, or even from a religious family. I know being Jewish means very different things to different people, but I was brought up to see being Jewish as being part of a progressive people – at the forefront of science, the arts, and movements to better society…not as being a backward people who would cling irrationally to traditions that hurt others.

Given that most of the readers here are probably both rational and progressive, I would ask them to do a little thought-experiment. Imagine that I’m 18 and wasn’t circumcised at birth, but now my parents have just converted to a religion and decide that I must be circumcised. I don’t want this, but they, a doctor, and a couple friends tackle me, hold me down, and do it anyway. You would all say this is wrong, right?…that as an adult it’s my decision, and that no religious beliefs give anyone the right to cut or otherwise modify my body without my consent.

But when you circumcise a baby, you’re also taking that choice away from the adult he will become. For every day of my adult life, I have been, and will continue to be, denied the right to choose for myself about MY OWN BODY as a result of what was done to me as an infant.
How can any reasonable person say that this is justified?

Of course what happened to me can’t be undone, but as a society we CAN decide that this won’t happen to anyone else. That it’s not acceptable to take away someone’s right to choose about THEIR OWN genitals.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Let them all convert to another religion and stay out of the future of the Jewish religion.

They wouldn’t dare comment like this about the Muslim religion now, would they.

I take no sides but am Jewish and resent being told what should be a crime if I decide to circumsize my child in following my religion.

Will they follow all religions and stop them from doing what they disaprove of?

Egad! What has happened to Freedom of Speech (cannot say terrorists or anything about the Muslim religion) but only the Jews and Christians.

Let those who are unhappy, change your religion and stop whining about what was done to you as a baby. Be thankful, you inherited more than that piece of skin that was taken away from you at 8 days old. Supposedly, brains.

Jews have become a bundh of winers except to tell everyone else what they can and cannot do. Do for yourself and keep out of my mind and beliefs.

Erik says:

I am unfortunately a male who because of his family’s religious beliefs, has been mutulated as an infant. I consider this practice to be barbaric and toatlly irrasional but I do not see it coming to an end in my life time, as it is so deeply rooted in people’s religious beliefs that they are blinded to the truth of this ancient ritual which clearly violates human rights and I for one would like very much for it to be criminalized in all civilized countries.

Rebecca says:

Since when is it a crime for an adult parent to make decisions for children without the children’s consent? As far as I can tell, that’s pretty common practice. I guess it should be illegal for a parent to pierce his or her child’s ears when the child is too young to protest.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

“Let them all convert to another religion and stay out of the future of the Jewish religion.”

So the future of the Jewish religion belongs to Dorothy Wachsstock? Dorothy says who gets to stay and who must go? And what’s what? The future of the Jewish religion belongs to the Jewish people. Jewish people get to decide their future, not you Dorothy.

“They wouldn’t dare comment like this about the Muslim religion now, would they.”

Are you serious? The Muslims disfigure both boys & girls genitals. Does that make you more happy?

“I take no sides but am Jewish and resent being told what should be a crime if I decide to circumsize my child in following my religion.”

When people proposed that slavery become a crime, people like you said: “How dare you take away my property and consider it a crime that I keep a slave!! Slavery is a long tradition in my family, and I have a right to follow that tradition. I resent this!”

“Will they follow all religions and stop them from doing what they disaprove of?”

Red herring!

Egad! What has happened to Freedom of Speech (cannot say terrorists or anything about the Muslim religion) but only the Jews and Christians.

Non Sequitur!

“Let those who are unhappy, change your religion and stop whining about what was done to you as a baby.”

You don’t throw out the baby, with the bathwater. Only a cold, mean, compassionless person, would dismiss the feelings of so many people. Just the kind of person in fact, who would shove a wine-soaked rag in an infants mouth and hack off part of HIS body, without a second thought.

“Be thankful, you inherited more than that piece of skin that was taken away from you at 8 days old. Supposedly, brains. Jews have become a bundh of winers except to tell everyone else what they can and cannot do. Do for yourself and keep out of my mind and beliefs.”

Dear Ms. Ice Queen, you have a natural talent for insulting & degrading people whom you disagree with.
Ad Hominem!

Rebecca:

Regarding the”parental right” argument: IT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU!! END OF DEBATE! This is how we explain things to small children when they have their hands on things that don’t belong to them. You can apply this rule to anything in life, (including the vagina) but for some odd reason, the male penis is the exception??

YOUR RIGHTS AS A PARENT END, WHERE ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY BEGIN! It’s not rocket science.

Rebecca, do you also believe it should be legal for parents to have their daughters circumcised? Circumcising baby boys is comparable to circumcising baby girls and therefore should be illegal. Ear piercing does not do any permanent damage and certainly is not comparable to permanent genital alterations.

A man in Fresno, California is serving time for putting a small tattoo on his son’s side. It is illegal to circumcise a dog. An ear piercing closes over and eventually vanishes if the owner leaves the stud out. Does anyone think it should be legal to pierce a child’s genitals?

Every analogy anyone likes to bring up between circumcision and other practices fails epically.

There’s a lot of heated rhetoric on both sides here. One thing is clear: there will never be a law banning circumcision — it would be a violation of freedom of religion, a basic underpinning of United States Law.
There is a clear medical difference between clitoridectomy (whether the minimum or the plus version) and circumcision. The former is meant by its practitioners reduce or remove libido — or even, to make intercourse painful — as a means of encouraging chastity. The latter has no such associations for its practitioners.
The gravity with which Judaism views the commandment of milah is such that, if a baby boy is stillborn, he is circumcised before burial. It is the mark of a Jewish male and has been so for thousands of years. It has nothing to do with health, cleanliness, or disease. It is a sign of the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people – a purely religious expression.
So precious is this commandment, that parents have risked their lives to keep it, from Roman to Soviet oppression.
Am Yisrael Chai.

Flo, you’re flat out wrong.

(1) Female genital cutting, down to the slightest pinprick, is illegal in the U.S. WITHOUT religious exception as of 1997. You see, religion does not give you the right to mutilate somebody else’s genitalia, just like you are not allowed to cut off your son’s arm in the name of your religion.

(2) Male circumcision is also meant by its practitioners to reduce or remove libido. Surely you are aware of Maimonides, who said that the whole point of circumcision was to have men think less about their wives and more about God? Or Kellogg et al, who championed circumcision in the 1800′s to prevent men from masturbating and enjoying sex?

How can you ban genital mutilation based on gender rather than on severity? It’s absurd and it’s gross sexism. The sooner this brutal mutilation is outlawed, the better.

~Barefoot Intactivist

Modern times and modern decisions about circumcision, should lead to a discussion of medical studies. Do circumcised males have a lower rate of cancer, than uncircumcised males? Religious Tradition, seems to be in concurrence with modern medicine.

Forced female circumcision is the crime.

Even as a liberal Jew and Zionist who could care less whether his own children where circumcised, I would still vehemently support the rights o devoutly religious Jews and Muslims to ritually circumcise their male children. Why should I impose my personal decisions on others like that, unless I wanted everyone to hate me?

D. Kathofsky, circumcised males do not have a lower rate of penile cancer. In other first world countries where males are not circumcised they have the same penile cancer rate as the U.S.

In much of Europe it is practially illegal to circumcise minor boys with an exception for Muslims and Jews to do religious circumcisions. In South Africa it is illegal to circumcise minor boys with an exception for religious reasons. So perhaps the San Fran ban should have an exception for religious circumcisions, otherwise there might be too much protest from Muslims and Jews.

Typical female circumcision just cuts off the clitoral hood, so typical female circumcision is not worse than male circumcision. No medical organization in the world says infant male circumcision does more good than harm. So it is not legitimate to circumcise baby boys for health reasons. In Great Britain and the Netherlands the main medical organizations state that there is no clear evidence that infant male circumcision has any health benefits. Most medical organizations in the world do not acknowledge infant male circumcision has any health benefits. The main pediatric organization in the U.S., the American Academy of Pediatrics which are circumcision extremists compared to most pediatric organizations in the world, won’t go as far as to say it does more good than harm. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the benefits and harms of infant male circumcision are about equal.

Penile cancer is more rare than male breast cancer. I don’t see anyone advocating that we amputate male breast tissue. Only around 2000 men a year get breast cancer in the US and about 1200 get penile cancer. The rate of cancer is the same in European countries (mostly intact penises) as it is in the USA (50% cut penises as of 2006).

It is disturbing, that in this day in age, “Freedom of Religion”, includes the right to make bloody & cruel child sacrifices. It’s such archaic behavior; it was preceded by whole child sacrifice. Ancient Israelites use to engage in this, until one day, they decided that it was too archaic! Go figure. They decided to “limit” the sacrifice to just part of the child & embraced Abraham’s covenant w/ more dedication, than they had been previously doing. Try thinking outside your archaic boxes. You might be surprised about what you discover.

NEWS FLASH: Circumcision most certainly does diminish the sexual experience in males. If you have taken the time, to educate yourself about the function of he foreskin, you could not possibly make a more inaccurate statement. It just shows that you haven’t been doing your reading.

Abraham says:

Several pro-infant-circumcision people have posted after me, but they all seem to have ignored my questions. I pose them again here. Note – they’re not rhetorical. I really want to know if anyone has an answer to this:

Assuming that most of the readers here are rational and believe in human rights, I would ask them to do a little thought-experiment. Imagine that I’m 18 and wasn’t circumcised at birth, but now my parents have just converted to a religion and decide that I must be circumcised. I don’t want this, but they, a doctor, and a couple friends tackle me, hold me down, and do it anyway. You would all say this is wrong, wouldn’t you?…that as an adult it’s my decision, and that no religious beliefs give anyone the right to cut or otherwise modify MY BODY without MY consent.

But when you circumcise a baby, you’re also taking that choice away from the adult he will become. For every day of my adult life, I have been, and will continue to be, denied the right to choose for myself about MY OWN BODY as a result of what was done to me as an infant. How can any reasonable person say that this is justified?

Of course what happened to me can’t be undone, but as a society we CAN decide that this won’t happen to anyone else. That it’s not acceptable to take away someone’s right to choose about THEIR OWN genitals.

Rebecca says:

If you don’t want to circumcise your child, that’s fine. Don’t.
But don’t try to impose your beliefs on someone else.. This is a sacred practice that has gone on for thousands of years. If you believe cirumcision is harmful (although there is zero proof supporting this theory), don’t circumcise your children.
I find this to be analogous to people who fight gay marriage: it doesn’t affect you. Others can do what they want. Whether or not I choose to circumcise my child does not concern you in the least.

D. Pallinger says:

@Rebecca
“But don’t try to impose your beliefs on someone else.. ”

Exactly my counter-argument to you. People need to leave THEIR religion away from their kids’ bodies until those children are grown and able to make informed choices for themselves. What if a Jewish family has their child cut because their religion supposedly commanded them to, and that child grows up and decides he doesn’t believe in Judaism? Then he’d have the mark of a religion he doesn’t want anything to do with on his body for the rest of his life. How is this fair? Children aren’t property to be branded, they’re human beings, and any alteration to their bodies is their business and nobody else’s.

Rebecca says:

Many people who are not Jewish choose to have their children circumcised by doctors. Doctors are required to take the hippocratic oath, in which they swear to do no harm. Circumcision does no help or harm, so what is the difference? If it was harmful, doctors would not perform circumcision.

Rebecca says:

In fact, circumcision plays a central role in avoiding infections of the penis, thus I revise my previous statement. Circumcision does much more help than possible “harm.” Some people choose to circumcise for a purely medical reason, so this is not about “child sacrifices,” k.burning.

Rebecca,

No medical organization in the world says circumcising baby boys does more good than harm. You can think infant male circumcision does much more good than harm, but no medical organization in the world agrees with that. Infant male circumcision is an extremely harmful sacrifice forced on defenseless babies.

Rebecca says:

And what medical organization says “infant male circumcision is an extremely harmful sacrifice forced upon defenseless babies,” may I ask? And in what way do they say it is harmful?

Rebecca says:

1. “If you don’t want to circumcise your child, that’s fine. Don’t. But don’t try to impose your beliefs on someone else.”

KB says:

The Covenant of Human Rights belong to ALL members of humanity. They are the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. I have have every right to defend the human rights of my child and your child. One of those inherent rights, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights/1948, is “Security of Person”, which consists of rights to privacy of the body.

Rebecca says:
2. “This is a sacred practice that has gone on for thousands of years.”

KB says:

Whole child sacrifice was also a very sacred practice (of Israelites) that went on for thousands of years. Your ancestors moved beyond it Rebecca. It wasn’t easy for them either. It came to an agonizing and slow halt. It ended only after many Jewish children perished, in the name of the right to sacrifice to G-d. If history has any bearing, I am certain that you can find the courage that is needed, to move beyond partial child sacrifice. Come out of the dark ages. Don’t be scared. You will be absolutely delighted at what you find.

Rebecca:

3. “If you believe cirumcision is harmful (although there is zero proof supporting this theory), don’t circumcise your children.”

KB says:

It is harmful. Physically. Emotionally. Globally. There is a ALOT of proof Rebecca. But you can’t see it in the dark, especially with your eyes closed.

Rebecca says:

4. “I find this to be analogous to people who fight gay marriage: it doesn’t affect you.”

The way that is is analogous to gay marriage is this: Gays have the same rights as everyone else. The are based on the covenant of human rights. Just as children have the same rights as everyone else. Again, based on the covenant of human rights.

Rebecca says:

5. Others can do what they want. Whether or not I choose to circumcise my child does not concern you in the least.:

KB says:

Please reread #1 above.

Rebecca says:

http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/no-index/about-ama/13585.shtml

I advise you all read this.. It recognizes the “risks” but it is obvious the benefits far outweigh them.

Rebecca says:

KB, please tell me what your proof is.

Dr. Michael Zidonov says:

Blessings Upon You Rebecca …….

You are Beating a Dead Horse when dealing with Secularists and other Faithless …

Kol Tuv L’cha !!!

Rebecca says:

“If it was harmful, doctors would not perform circumcision.”

Kb says:
Wrong. Lobotomy & bloodletting were very common medical practices. Doctors did these things for a very long time. Why? They don’t do them anymore. Why not? You also have to keep in mind that medicine is (at least in our country) a business. A BUSINESS. They make money “treating” people. These treatments are not always in the patients best interest. This is also why they have to carry so much malpractice insurance!

Rebecca says:
“In fact, circumcision plays a central role in avoiding infections of the penis, thus I revise my previous statement.”

KB says:

“infection” is a word that drives fear into the most reasonable of minds. Yes, men get genital infections, just as women do. Most of which, are very harmless & easy to treat. The most common ones do not reduce the quality of your life. Yeast, or a UTI. You take an anti-biotic or a dose of Mono Stat & are as good as new again! :) People who are promiscuous, are another thing. The genital infections that they acquire are due to unhealthy sexual behavior.

Rebecca says:

“Circumcision does much more help than possible “harm.”

No national or international medical association in the world, recommends circumcision. Your statement is completely incorrect. You haven’t even read a thing about how stripping the penis, of an important tissue, that it was meant to be there, is harmful. How can you say that it does no harm, if you can’t even say that you have read anything to the contrary? Open your eyes rebecca. :) Read. Read. Read.

Rebecca:
“Some people choose to circumcise for a purely medical reason, so this is not about “child sacrifices,” k.burning.”

KB says:

We are talking about the Jews Rebecca. The PRIMARY reason that the Jews do it, is because it is a sacrifice to G-D. Again, a child sacrifice. A partial child sacrifice. Preceded by whole child sacrifice.

Rebecca-

proof of what? Can you please be more specific?

Never mind, i see what you are asking about now. I could take the time to give you many links. But if you Google “Harm of circumcision” or “25 reasons not to circumcise” you will finds lots & lots to read.

“No medical organization in the world says circumcising baby boys does more good than harm. You can think infant male circumcision does much more good than harm, but no medical organization in the world agrees with that. Infant male circumcision is an extremely harmful sacrifice forced on defenseless babies.”
You can;t say that either though, and this is the thing that seems to be a recurring issue for all the anti-circumcision folks. The issue of benefits is moot to the whole argument anyway, as the issue isn’t “should all babies be circumcised” but “should it be banned”, and as there is no evidence for actual harmful effects, either physical or mental (those saying 100 a year die should realize that is an extremely small number to the point of statistically insignificant and the same is true for most of the risks as well), than you can’t argue for other people to follow your own personal beliefs. Like it or not, the child is not an individual, especially an infant who can’t survive on it’s own, and so the caregiver controls their rights. Unless harm is involved (which is the case with circumcision whether you agree or not) no one has any right to tell a parent how they may or may not raise their child in this country.
As for the issue of the bris within Judaism, just a few comments I think need to be said in response to some claims made. For one, to those saying “why not wait for the child to be of age”, that is besides the point, as the mitzvah of bris milah is not on the child, but on the parents. Additionally, it is obviously considered a very important ritual within Judaism by the fact that people risked their lives to continue the mitzvah, as well as how it supersedes even the restriction to do work on Shabbos, and even Yom Kippur. And historical accoutns, both from biblical sources and others, would dispute the claims of the ritual originally being just a pin prick instead of an actual circumcisions.

Dr. Michael Zidonov says:
Blessings Upon You Rebecca …….You are Beating a Dead Horse when dealing with Secularists and other Faithless …
Kol Tuv L’cha !!!

Kb says:

Ah, the good Doctor finally weighs in. :) How’s business doing Sir?

Z-

When 1 person is harmed by another and dies, it is called murder. When 100 or more are harmed by another and die, it is a “statistic”. Why should any child have to die from cruel, ritualistic child sacrifice???
This 2011 for Wee Willy’s sake!

The child IS an individual. People who believe that they are “non-persons”, REALLY date themselves & make themselves look pretty ignorant. Caregivers are guardians, they are not owners.

Please watch this video, and then tell me again, that I have no right to speak up for this defenseless non-person.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=013PdUzvWpo

There is enough evidence out there that confirms that the early form of brit milah was not nearly as severe as it is today. Read. Please.

“When 1 person is harmed by another and dies, it is called murder. When 100 or more are harmed by another and die, it is a “statistic”. Why should any child have to die from cruel, ritualistic child sacrifice???
This 2011 for Wee Willy’s sake!”
I think you misunderstand, the point is that the number of deaths related is so small, it is not a significant risk in the least (which is why it is allowed and not considered harmful by any medical associations as many have already pointed out, including the articles author).

“The child IS an individual. People who believe that they are “non-persons”, REALLY date themselves & make themselves look pretty ignorant. Caregivers are guardians, they are not owners.”
If that was true, why aren’t mothers who smoke, drink alcohol, or in any way come into contact with teratogens culpable if the child suffers complications? What about abortion? Vaccination? It is not in any way as black and white as you seem to believe. You are entitled to an opinion, but you don’t have the law, and for the record science, on your side, I wouldn;t say that an infant is an individual if it can;t survive as an individual. It can’t make it;s own decisions, express itself, etc.

“Please watch this video, and then tell me again, that I have no right to speak up for this defenseless non-person.”

Ever been in a pediatricians office? Children scream and cry when they get shots, so should we stop doing that, even though it saves lives?

“There is enough evidence out there that confirms that the early form of brit milah was not nearly as severe as it is today. Read. Please.”

You can;t just say “read” as if that justifies your point. We know the Greeks banned the ritual in an attempt to root out Judaism, so that;s already pretty far back (Second Temple era), and as pointed out biblical passages make reference during the pre-first Temple era.

Abraham says:

Rebecca said “I find this to be analogous to people who fight gay marriage: it doesn’t affect you. Others can do what they want.”

That’s not true. It does affect me. MY penis was cut. I didn’t want that. I can’t “do what [I] want” because that choice was taken away from me.

That’s the whole point. My body, my choice.

My parents don’t walk around with my penis on their bodies. They don’t pee through my penis. They don’t make love with my wife with my penis.

It’s not their penis. It’s MY PENIS. Therefore it’s rightfully MY CHOICE and nobody else’s.

The analogy with gay marriage is a complete fail. What two consenting adults do with each other is nobody’s business but their own. Permanently modifying someone’s healthy genitals without their consent is another matter entirely.

If somebody wants to have part of THEIR OWN PENIS cut off or otherwise modified then I have no problem with that. But forcing that decision on a newborn baby is not ok.

Only the owner of the body has the right to make that choice.

And like I said earlier, I’m from a Jewish family. But MY BODY doesn’t belong to my culture, or my parents, or my parents’ culture, or their religion. It belongs to me.

Z: I think you misunderstand

KB: No I don’t think so. You are saying that 100 babies dead (the number of which is disputable) is really no big deal. Clear as water.

Z: the point is that the number of deaths related is so small, it is not a significant risk in the least

KB: 130 million girls and women have undergone female circumcision. Statistically speaking, very few have died. Your point?

Z: If that was true, why aren’t mothers who smoke, drink alcohol, or in any way come into contact with teratogens culpable if the child suffers complications?

KB: Good question! If I take loads of toxic drugs during my pregnancy and my kid is born with birth defects,
do you feel that I should be accountable? No? Why not? Because my kid is a non person?

Z: What about abortion? Vaccination?

KB: Abortion and vaccination? Red herrings.

Z: It is not in any way as black and white as you seem to believe.

K: I am partial to looking at thinks in color, actually. As nature intended. :)

Z: You are entitled to an opinion, but you don’t have the law, and for the record science, on your side,

K: I disagree whole heatedly. We have the law of human rights on our side. We too, have scientists on our side. Lots of them. Even Jewish ones. :) Nationally and internationally.

Z: I wouldn’t say that an infant is an individual if it can’t survive as an individual. It can’t make it’s own decisions, express itself, etc.

K: Right. It’s a NON PERSON. With no more rights than a farm animal.

Z: Ever been in a pediatricians office? Children scream and cry when they get shots, so should we stop doing that, even though it saves lives?

K: Non-sequitor. The premise is, that circumcision is harmful & wrong. Your conclusion is, that shots, given to screaming children, save lives. That does not follow the premise. It is also a red herring.

Z: You can;t just say “read” as if that justifies your point.

K: But reading is good for your health. No risks at all. :)

Sue Denim says:

Z, if the adult controls the child’s rights, and so long as no harm is done, anything goes, then why are parents not allowed to tattoo their children?

After all, we know that such things aren’t harmful. Plenty of people have tattoos and don’t suffer in the slightest.

Or how about nipple or genital piercings? They’re far less severe than circumcision – they don’t even remove any tissue.

What’s wrong with these things, if adults have rights over children, so long as they don’t hurt them (in your opinion) “too much”?

Abraham, your post was beautiful, and I think it’s disgusting that the people here are so blind to the fact that you are, and always were, an individual.

All those still proclaiming that religious freedom allows them to cut others’ bodies- what would you do if you found out a Jewish man attending your synagogue was uncircumcised? Hold him down and have his foreskin amputated?

And if you wouldn’t do this to an adult man, why would you think it acceptable to do it to a baby?

For those still claiming there are medical reasons to circumcise – 85% of the world’s men are intact. If you are right, and the foreskin is so dangerous, where are all the people suffering and dying from the litany of diseases you think the foreskin causes?

Where are all these people who are desperately suffering because their foreskins are disease-ridden, and they’re not able to have themselves circumcised as a last resort at a later date?

That’s right – they don’t exist. Because firstly diseases of the foreskin are vanishingly rare, and secondly, if a man does feel his foreskin is so dangerous it must be removed, he can have it done as an adult.

But those men who have had their penises altered in infancy, and wish it hadn’t been done? Your kind, sensitive advice to them is what? Forget about it?

That seriously is inhumane. You think kids should be strapped down to have their genitals cut, then if they dare complain as adults, you tell them to suffer in silence.

Sue:And if you wouldn’t do this to an adult man, why would you think it acceptable to do it to a baby?

KB:
It’s only ok to do this to non-person. A being, that has no rights. You can get away w/ it easier. :) Ironically, if i tried to circumcise my pet cow, i’d probably go to jail for animal cruelty. lol. Sue, you are definitely out of the loop. The foreskin is more dangerous than a friggin’ terrorist!

Sue:
That seriously is inhumane. You think kids should be strapped down to have their genitals cut, then if they dare complain as adults, you tell them to suffer in silence.

KB:
Yes! That was the EXACT advice given by Ms. Ice Queen, who posted yesterday. A warm-hearted lady. You’d be lucky to get her as a mom. :)

“130 million girls and women have undergone female circumcision. Statistically speaking, very few have died. Your point?”
As has been pointed out time and again, the two are apples and oranges, and to quote the author “It’s absurd to compare male circumcision to female clitoridectomy.”

“Good question! If I take loads of toxic drugs during my pregnancy and my kid is born with birth defects,
do you feel that I should be accountable? No? Why not? Because my kid is a non person?”
There are no laws punishing moms who either smoke or drink while pregnant, or expose their child to second hand smoke. That is the law, no matter what my own thoughts on the matter.

“Abortion and vaccination? Red herrings”
Anti-vaccination people would strongly disagree with you on that. They believe that it is their right to not vaccinate, despite it putting the child as well as other people at serious risk. Doesn;t this involve the child, who by your reasoning has rights/ Why do the parent;s get to decide the matter? And abortion is related in that if you are willing to say a newborn is an individual, what right do you have to say a fetus doesn’t? Is it b/c the fetus is wholly dependent on the mom, because if so then so is the newborn.

“I disagree whole heatedly. We have the law of human rights on our side. We too, have scientists on our side. Lots of them. Even Jewish ones. :) Nationally and internationally”
Just saying you have “the law of human rights” doesn’t make it so. What makes that type of argument any more credible than if one were to counter your view with it being God’s law?

“Right. It’s a NON PERSON. With no more rights than a farm animal.”
This is just back to the same issue touched on above of what individual rights do infants have, if any, and how do we define an individual. I would argue that infant’s have rights, however those rights fall under the parent’s discretion (with restriction’s that it doesn;t fall under what we as a society consider harm).

D. Pallinger says:

@Z
“It’s absurd to compare male circumcision to female clitoridectomy.”

How so? They contain the same type of nerve endings(Meissner’s Corpuscles), in fact the male foreskin contains them in an even higher density than the clitoris(20,000 nerve endings vs 8,000 nerve endings).

But I will agree that to break this down into comparisons is a moot point; they’re both non-consensual bodily alterations for ill-founded “medical” reasons or backwards religious superstition, and they both have to be stopped. It doesn’t matter which is “worse” than the other, neither needs to be happening in the year 2011.

Jerry Katz says:

JPK,
Most of the arguments against circumcision presented above are ridiculous. Parents vaccinate their young children. In fact many schools will not admit children if they have not been vaccinated. Children die as a result of the after effects of vaccinations. It is a very small number but it does happen. Vaccination does carry risks but the benefits exceed the risks.

How many people have died in fires or from electrocution caused by poorly wired Christmas trees? I suspect that there have been more deaths reulting from Christmas tree fires than from circumcisions. Should we ban Christmas trees?

Allowing a child to make decisions about circumcision at age 18 is bizarre. How many of the above respondents attended Sunday School or some other religous program when they were children. Who taught you to take off your hat when you were in church? Could one argue that their parents unfairly force fed them a particular religion? Using the logic presented above, children should not be allowed to attend Sunday Schools, church services, synagogue services, etc until they reach the age of majority. At that age after living in a religous vaccuum they will declare their relgous beliefs. Does this make sense?

The next argument is going to be that I have no right to give my children haircuts because I am depriving them of the hair they could have accumulated over the years. I am not sure if cutting hair is good or bad; I am sure that many of the above commentators have solid and illogical opinions on the issue.

Abraham is considered to have been the first Jew and he circumsised his son. Neither he, nor his heirs practised child sacrifice. What happened before Abraham is of no relevance here.

Having attended many circumcisions I assure you that the baby does not suffer severe pain. This is evidenced by the fact that baby will only cry for a few seconds. Circumcising a baby boy 8 days after his birth is an old Jewish rule; however, nobody is forcing you.

D. Pallinger, I was quoting the article above, the one we are all commenting on. Furthermore they are not at all considered the same for reasons dealing with the extent of the procedure, the way it influences life later on etc.
To quote Sherry F. Colb, a professor at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey writing on the issues in an article written about the topic for a CNN website:
“This apparent lack of permanent harmful consequences significantly distinguishes male circumcision from the practice sometimes called “female circumcision” but also known as female genital mutilation (“FGM”) or female genital cutting. FGM is prohibited by a federal statute passed in 1996.

FGM typically involves the removal of a girl’s entire clitoris (an excision that virtually eliminates the possibility of orgasm). In addition, clitoridectomy is often accompanied by the removal of the girl’s labia and the sewing together of remaining raw surfaces, leaving only a small opening for the outflow of urine and menstrual blood, a process known as infibulation. Infibulation itself can have life-long deleterious consequences, including urinary distress, pain during intercourse, and dangerous complications during labor and the delivery of children.”

I think I am going to stop, for now, defending the human rights of Jewish baby boys. They are such a small percentage of the overall population, statistically speaking. I would be happy if the ban just protected the majority of San Francisco’s non-Jewish boys. Let the Jews continue to mutilate the genitals of their offspring!

I’ve tried so hard to see it from their point of view, but I just can’t seem to get my head that far up my ass. You really can’t reason with people who desecrate the flesh of their own children’s bodies.

g’night everyone.

Thomas says:

“FGM typically involves the removal of a girl’s entire clitoris (an excision that virtually eliminates the possibility of orgasm).”

http://www.fgmnetwork.org/authors/Lightfoot-klein/sexualexperience.htm

Also the removal of the entire clitoris would be quite difficult, considering the majority of the clitoris is inside the females body.

“In addition, clitoridectomy is often accompanied by the removal of the girl’s labia and the sewing together of remaining raw surfaces, leaving only a small opening for the outflow of urine and menstrual blood, a process known as infibulation. Infibulation itself can have life-long deleterious consequences, including urinary distress, pain during intercourse, and dangerous complications during labor and the delivery of children.”

Infibulation is not circumcision, it is infibulation. There are always male equivalents to female infibulation such as penile subincision and foreskin infibulation.

Rebecca, medical organizations in the U.S. seem to be for male circumcision but they don’t say it does more good than harm and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the benefits and harms are about equal. But the U.S. is the only country in the world where it is common to circumcise baby boys for non-religious reasons and the vast majority of medical organizations in the world are very much against infant male circumcision.

The main medical organizations in Canada recommend that baby boys not be circumcised. The main medical organizations in Austrailia state that the health benefits of infant male circumcision are marginal and do not make up for the harms and risks. In Great Britain and the Netherlands the main medical organizations state that there is no clear evidence that infant male circumcision has any health benefits, but infant male circumcision has real risks.

In my opinion the only justifications for infant male circumcision is medical necessity, or if it was clear it did a lot more good than harm which isn’t the case. I’m outraged that I was circumcised when I was a baby and many males are. It surprises me that many people don’t think males should have the right to be intact, when baby boys are circumcised that right is taken away from them and they have to live their whole lives that way if they like it or not. I think males should have the freedom and right to decide for themselves because they’re the ones who have to live with it their whole lives, so it should be the way they want it, not just the way their parents want it.

Sue Denim says:

//”Allowing a child to make decisions about circumcision at age 18 is bizarre.”//

But allowing parents to force such a decision onto another individual’s body, regardless of what that individual may want in the future isn’t bizarre?

Your comparison with teaching kids religion, or having haircuts shows just how blind you are to this subject. Perhaps willfully blind because it makes it easier for you.

Let’s make it clear – circumcision is the irreversible amputation of healthy, erogenous flesh.

So, how does that compare with teaching religion, which can always be undone? Or with cutting off hair, which is not living tissue, and does not have any innervation (let alone the dense innervation known to exist in teh foreskin)?

You need to research the foreskin. The one thing that all people I’ve known to support circumcision have in common is the fact that they know literally NOTHING about the foreskin they think it’s a good idea to cut off. When you learn about the brilliance of the foreskin, you become very against the idea of taking it away from anyone who doesn’t expressly, knowingly wish it away.

You also repeat the tired canard that babies don’t cry much, so they don’t hurt much. Take bodily measures such as cortisol level, and you KNOW it hurts. Even doctors have agreed that circumcision is THE MOST painful procedure in neonatal medicine. Yet again, you show you’re not informed. Silence instead of crying in a baby having his genitals cut shows not a lack of pain, but a withdrawn response to that pain.

Z, do you have an answer as to why you don’t also promote nipple or genital piercings of children, or tattooing or branding of children?

After all, these hurt only briefly, do far less damage than circumcision, and should be parental choice, right? Right?

Herbert says:

when Jews circumcize their sons, it is barbaric
when Jews kill animals for food using ritual slaughter, it is barbaric
when Jews want to have their own state, it is barbaric
when Jews decide to celebrate a Sabbath on a different day, it is barbaric
whne Jews insist that humans are above animals, it is barbaric

anyone follow this trend? Jews should just move out of SF. It is the most anti-semitic city in the US. Perhaps SF can become the next Lodz

K. Burning-

It has been a while since I’ve read someone who argues as sloppily and distastefully as you. Did you ever consider that it’s not the values of the far left wing of American society that define Jewish ethics and practice, but our covenant with God and the time-honored traditions of our forebears? Also, with your concern for the “human rights” (you totally misuse the term) of babies, what is your position on abortion? I would assume that if you’re against any nicks or cuts, then you’re against taking the life altogether.

And to use your little method of cut and paste-
KB: “We are talking about the Jews Rebecca. The PRIMARY reason that the Jews do it, is because it is a sacrifice to G-D. Again, a child sacrifice. A partial child sacrifice. Preceded by whole child sacrifice.”
What are you talking about? Jews sacrifice their children? The Brit is a covenant, not a sacrifice. In your words, read read read.

LB,

Male circumcision is a sacrifice because the male is giving up valuable body parts permanently. I guess you don’t think the foreskin is valuable, but to many males it is very valuable.

In the Middle East it is common for Muslim parents to have their little daughters circumcised for religious reasons. In 1996 circumcising minor females in the U.S. was made illegal. Because of that some Muslims now take their little girls out of the country to get circumcised. Do you also think parents should have the right to circumcise their baby girls? Or do you only care about protecting the rights of baby girls and not of baby boys?

Ben,

I absolutely see the point you’re making, but I am unconvinced of the harm in circumcising boys. Circumcized men are as healthy (some would even say healthier in some ways), as virile, and as fertile as uncircumcized.

In terms of comparing it to human sacrifice, I really think that is just an irrelevant and inappropriate analogy that just prevents any real discussion of this. I can’t think of much that Jews are as virulently opposed to as they are human sacrifice (see the Akeidah, opposition to Canaanite pagan rituals, etc.).

Circumcizing females is harmful to them, and can make them unable to enjoy sex. If male circumcision was that harmful, Id be opposed, and Judaism wouldn’t command it.

The crux of the matter is this- Jews believe this is what God commanded Jewish parents to do, as a sign of their covenant. It is also what Jews (and all other semitic peoples) have always done. So a crucially important piece of our relationship with God, that is not harmful, should of course be done. Most of the arguments against it seem to come from secular Jews on the far left who think Jewish law is a bunch of patriarchal superstition and mumbo-jumbo at best, and then try to bring in whatever justification is convenient to attempt to prohibit or dissuade Jews from following Judaism.

Moreover, Judaism does not command nor sanction female circumcision, so there is no reason I would. Neither does Islam for that matter.

If you give an argument that shows you are taking Judaism seriously, then you might gain some traction.

LB,

I and some people believe infant male circumcision is just as harmful as infant female circumcision, which is why myself and some people are so much against circumcising baby boys.

Of course though I can see why people are for it if they believe it isn’t harmful and that it is an important part of the Jewish religion or of Islam.

I will never understand though how people can believe it’s not harmful. Circumcised males are missing about 15 square inches of penile skin when adult, and circumcised males are missing around 20,000 erogenous nerve endings. Also when males are circumcised the glans and inner foreskin remnant dry out and thick layers of dead cells made out of keratin cover those areas which futher decreases sensitivity. Just like if a person puts a bandaid around a finger, over time obviuosly the skin on that finger will become much more sensitive. The Sorrells study which was done by a group of doctors in California showed that circumcision cuts off the 5 most sensitive parts of the penis. The late Canadian Doctor John Taylor who did extensive studying of the nerve endings on the penis said that circumcision cuts off around 20,000 erogenous nerve endings, and he said that males who get circumcised for religious reasons are making a huge sacrifice for their relgion. Circumcised males can have a lot of sexual pleasure especially if they have very much of their inner foreskin left, but circumcised males can’t have nearly as much sexual pleasure as if they had never been circumcised.

Not many if anyone follows everything that the bible and their religion says to. So if a Jew isn’t following everything that the bible and their religion says to, then I don’t think they should feel the need to circumcise their baby sons.

I think though that the ban should have an exception for religious circumcisions, only because otherwise there might be way to much protest from Jews and maybe Muslims.

What about hatafat dam brit? While I understand that it is typically done when a non-kosher circumcision has already been performed, I think it’s akin to the American Pediatric Association’s pinprick that the author referenced.

Nonetheless, I like the idea of a brit shalom.

Haven’t we had this argument already? Some time around 300 BCE during Hellenistic times?

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Ms Goldberg’s article above is perhaps the best I have read written by a Jew in a Jewish forum, about the growing controversy over circumcision in the USA.

In 1978,  Rosemary Romberg, a mother of 6 married to a secular Jew, published an article questioning the American medical procedure called routine infant circumcision (RIC). Thus began the “intactivist” movement (the name was invented years later). I have followed the intactivist movement for about 30 years. I can assure readers that most intactivists are quiet suburban mothers who do not interact socially with Jews and who do not have an antisemitic bone in their bodies. A common theme over the past 30 years is that the ethics of brit milah is something that the Jews have to decide for themselves.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that no intactivist calls for banning brit milah, but only delaying it until after the 18th birthday, when it becomes a free adult choice rich in existential significance. North American Jews seem unaware of the fact that many Latin American and European Jewish families stop doing brit milah sometime during the past 150 years. This fact is not appreciated because families who have crossed this bridge never wear the fact on their sleeves, as it were. Personally, I support a religious exemption on pragmatic grounds. I also invite Reform and Conservative rabbis to not attack parents who decline to do brit milah on the 8th day.

The USA is the only country on earth where large numbers of newborn boys undergo RIC while in the maternity ward. Hence if circumcision were beneficial, this could be determined by comparing American STI rates and urological data with comparable data from other Western nations. I have awaited such a comparison for three decades. It is the case that among the advanced nations, the USA has the highest STI rates Israel has one of the highest HIV rates.

RIC is done only because the parents request it, which they do for shameful conformist reasons. They fear that circumcised boys will ridicule, even bully, an intact boy, and that intact men are at a severe disadvantage when dating American women (e.g., it is supposedly impossibly disgusting to fellate an intact man). The frequency of RIC in the other English speaking countries has either greatly declined (Australia and Canada) or has gone to zero (UK and New Zealand), simply because in those countries, the taxpayer does not come to the party and because the medical profession came to see the practice as unnecessary and harmful.

Most American doctors refuse to inject lidocaine before doing RIC. Many that do inject do not do so optimally. The result is that RIC is savagely painful, and this is blatantly wrong. Doctors who believe that using lidocaine gives rise to material risks, should simply put the scalpel back in the drawer. Unanesthetised circumcision should be criminalised forthwith.

The main reason why RIC is unethical is because we do not know the long run consequences of doing it. There is ample anecdotal evidence that some men circumcised in infancy grow up to be men with nontrivial urological and sexual problems, including premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and difficulties with erection because too much was cut off. These problems become more pronounced as a man ages. We do not know the extent of these problems because there never has been a careful study of a stratified random sample of American and Canadian penises, complete with clinical examination and an interview of spouses. American pediatric urologists are silent about how much of their caseload is due to problems arising from RIC, a fact I find especially disturbing. Hence American doctors who circumcise babies cannot satisfy the ethical imperative of “first do no harm.”

As for STIs, no intact man whose sex life fully conforms to Jewish moral theology ever contracted an STI. I cannot countenance altering surgically the most intimate part of the male body simply to reduce, supposedly, the damage that irresponsible sexual behaviour can do.  A man has the right to enjoy his entire body in exchange for curbing his sexual urges.

The biomedical technology needed to pin down just what a man feels during sexual activity does not yet exist. It is a scientific fact that the bits sacrificed to circumcision have a very dense nervous system. That fact, along with the location of those bits, imply that the presumption should be that those bits are important players in what a man feels during sexual acts. American research has been blind to these facts because American medical and sexual researchers are either circumcised men or women with circumcised husbands. At any rate, circumcision has been on a collision course with Jewish sexual sophistication, and I believe that that collision has begun.

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Foreplay

A proposed San Francisco ballot measure prohibiting circumcision arises from a debate over ritual, sexuality, and identity. What’s become an American norm might soon again be a mark of difference.

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