Warning! Don’t watch this video at work. Or near your chil’ens. Or if you get queasy at the thought of gratuitous phallic imagery, nudity, or “colorful” (i.e. “sounds like Cate”) language.
That disclaimer aside, I’ve come to understand what a heady topic circumcision can be! (No, I couldn’t resist the pun! And yes, I have been reading too much Cake Wrecks.)
After I wrote my initial blog exploring reasons to leave boys intact, there was a lot of “discussion” on the topic. People sure are passionate about foreskins!
1 million times a year, 3,000 times a day, every 26 seconds, an American boy has the tip of his penis cut off.
Sometimes, it’s better to just let the professionals do the talking. No, I don’t mean all of those doctors I consulted before I decided to leave my sons intact.
I’m talking, of course, about Penn and Teller, who explored circumcision on one of their “BS!” series episodes.
How about finishing up this serious topic with some humor?
Watch the video, if you don’t mind a bit of nudity, clips of performed circumcisions, a pic of FGM (female genital mutilation), penis jokes, info on foreskin “recycling”, a Ron Jeremy cameo, and dose of cuss words.
Penn & Teller take the time to debunk the myths associated with this practice. I value this video because of that. I didn’t base any of my arguments on this video, but I appreciate having found a good chuckle. Before you watch, however, don’t say I haven’t warned you!
But…blasted! The internet embedding trolls have foiled me again. Go to Google Video to check it out:
If you’d like to read my full blog review on the video, check it out at Nature’s Child.
Frank OHara says
Yes, this is a controversial subject. Men are discovering what this supposedly “sum zero” operation did to them and they are now figuratively coming out of the woodwork. On the other hand, there are those men who feel they must defend the abreviated organ they have, their parent’s decision for them or their religion. There are also those parents who have already made the decision and it is now too late to learn and make a different decision and they feel they must defend that decision. Add to this the factor that it involves sexuality and it is the perfect storm.
Women who have been circumcised vigorously defend what was done to them as well and probably for the same reasons and fully intend to circumcise their daughters for the same reasons Americans circumcise their sons.
I’m one of the many, many men upset by this practice, and also kept my son intact.
The issue, to me, seems a bit TOO controversial at times, though, from both sides. The defenders, to me, seem like ideologists, searching for any excuse to defend a practice they already believe in. Most were circumcised or had their children circumcised without much thought in the matter, and now when faced with the idea that it’s unnecessary and possibly harmful, they feel the need to defend it to the death and at the expense of common sense and evidence. The ritual practice started for religious and anti-masturbation reasons, but now people are searching for reasons why it’s a good thing.
That said, the people on MY side of the argument have unrealistic ideals, as well. I see a lot of the “true believer” mentality, where we throw out any evidence that doesn’t agree with us and only latch onto the stuff that does. Now I tend to think my arguments are justified (the studies that show no difference in sensitivity, for instance, do appear highly flawed, while SOME of the ones that found a difference do appear to have been performed better), but so does everyone on both sides. One thing my side tends to go for is a pretty staunch opposition to circumcision in general, which I think is a dangerous, extremist attitude.
My personal opinion is that circumcision is a perfectly reasonable body modification when chosen by the adult whose body is being modified. Just like tattoos, piercings, or the more extreme mods like tongue splitting, spikes and other oddities, circumcision is just as reasonable a choice for an adult to make. But when there’s enough evidence to show that at the very least the pros/cons for circumcision even out (I personally weigh the cons heavier, but clearly others do not), I don’t believe it’s my right to force a permanent body modification (or mutilation for those inclined to go for the power words) on my son when I can leave him intact and leave the choice up to him later in life. I didn’t pierce my daughter’s ears until she begged for it and could understand it, and I sure as hell didn’t have functional, valuable, vital portions of my son’s sexual organs cut from his body for my own questionable reasons.
And in case anyone gives a crap, yes, I feel this strongly because I was circumcised at birth, and no, I’m not happy about it. I lean toward believing the evidence (although, due to how little good research there is on the subject, most of it’s unfortunately anecdotal and difficult to back up) that I’ve lost sensitivity and function, and that bothers me. I didn’t get a choice in that matter. And yes, I’m restoring. I need to take back SOME control and regain as much of it as I can (which will never be as much as I lost).
Anyway, the only reason I’m posting is because I caught this early enough. This’ll turn into a firestorm fast, and anything I would have posted later would get lost between the angry ranting from both sides. It’s really sad that it’s like this. Too bad a bunch of ancient religious ideology put this issue out there to begin with. Otherwise we’d be treating it like any other body part that, on rare occasions, gives a few people a little bit of trouble despite its advantages (cleaning my fingernails sure is inconvenient, and ingrown nails are the worst!).
Penn and Teller are hilarious, but hardly leading authorities and really manipulate their show around their views. This happens with even reality TV, which is not so real because it is scripted like this Penn and Teller show. Sorry for that little Hollywood spoiler on your favorite “reality TV” show.
This is also largely biased because they found the fruitiest doctor who comes of as a pure quack with that bow tie, with one other female pediatrician, while they have over three anti circ people. That’s not a balanced argument.
Their “Jewish Rabbi” calls the Torah a Bible!?! The “Bible” is the New Testament with the Old Testament the Torah is only the Old Testament which is what the Jews follow and circumcision is and will be a religious practice for them! Which means their “Jewish Rabbi” is from Jews for Jesus as circumcision is not a part of Christianity. However Jews for Jesus still part take in Jewish customs such as referring to a pastor as a Rabbi, with their appearance, and how sermons are conducted. Also Penn and Teller hate religion look at their show against the Bible so they wouldn’t know that or they just used religion in this case as Hitler did to gain supporters for his infamous efforts. Here’s the link to the show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RV46fsmx6E of which they conveniently ignore the fact that the Bible is a history book, with the religious aspects aside, the Old Testament is largely the history of the Jews and the New Testament details what actually happened with the people of the early Christian church.
They do however, manage to prove and provide some valuable information on how circumcision is easily reversible which is great! It’s not as big as a travesty as the anti-circs make it out to be as the one woman stated,” “it’s the most brutal thing I’ve ever seen in my life”
What about abortion?
A Jewish Male Opposing Circumcision says
A variety of Jewish and Israeli groups are working to abolish circumcision also.
Kahal: Giving Up Brit Milah (in Hebrew and English)
Jews Against Circumcision
Beyond the Brit Milah: A Jewish Intactivist Blog
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective
Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation (in Hebrew)
TurboFool, I’m in the same boat. I was cut at birth without a medical reason or my own consent, and I very much resent that. I too am actively restoring. I also have an intact son.
Like you, I could care less what a consenting adult does to his or her own body, but to force any permanent, amputative surgery on a non-consenting minor is a human rights outrage we would never tolerate if perpetrated against a girl. In fact FGM has been illegal in the US for over a decade, yet used to be practiced in this country for much the same “reasons” male circ is done today.
Add to the mix a privatized medical establishment that sells harvested infant foreskins to biotech and cosmetics companies, and you have an ethical nightmare.
I’m encoraged by the fact that infant circ rates in the US are falling (54-57% currently, with rates in the western states as low as the low 20s) as insurance companies stop covering it and the legal system begins to catch up with the 21st century. More parents are becoming educated as to the true complications of this unnecessary surgery (along with the proper care of the intact penis), and education is key to stopping what is, according to the UN, a breach of fundamental human rights.
As I’ve gone through the comments TurboFool you have by far been the most reasonable about this by taking a logical approach rather then one solely based on your regrets of being circumcised, because of that I really appreciate reading your input.
Quote “This is also largely biased because they found the fruitiest doctor who comes of as a pure quack with that bow tie”
The person you refer to is Dr. Edgar Schoen, and previously held the position of Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision. After he was replaced from the Chair of the AAP’s Task force on circ, they pulled their endorsement of the practice.
You may not like their choice of people on the show, but they are the people at the center of the debate.
Edgar Schoen is one of the two major public pushers of circumcision. His website is http://www.medicirc.org. The other pusher is Brian Morris, not a doctor but a biologist, his website is http://www.circinfo.net. Both websites are full of outdated data and full on lies.
You can have the view that it looks better, and I can’t argue with that, because it is subjective. But to argue that it is physically better for boys is proven wrong by the 70-80% of the men in the world that are not circumcised.
Brettney: Thank you for your respectful understanding of my comment. I do wish to clear up a misconception on your part, though: Circumcision is not “easily reversible” by any remote stretch of the imagination, and I don’t recall the P&T episode suggesting it was.
For one thing (to cover the “reversible” aspect), the vast majority of what’s lost can never be recovered. The frenulum, which is the single most sensitive part of the penis and the part that anchors the foreskin to the glans, is amputated in most forms of circumcision, and completely impossible to restore. The frenar band, which the elastic-like skin at the tip of the foreskin that causes it to contract around the glans and keep it pulled forward to protect the glans, is irreplaceable. The particular cellular makeup of the inner foreskin, which is designed to protect and moisten the glans, is essentially gone for good, depending on how much of it was remaining after the circumcision and what method of restoration is used. The massive number of nerve endings that are lost in the roughly 50% of the surface area of the penis removed during circumcision are gone for good. In the cases of infant circumcision where the foreskin was forcibly retracted from the glans instead of allowed to part from it naturally over the years, the full sensitivity and mucosal makeup of the glans can never be fully restored to its original form. In fact, in the only study I’ve seen that used standard sensitivity-measuring tools (the filament-based techniques used for testing Diabetes patients) instead of heat or other odd techniques that don’t equate to sexual sensation, they found that when averaged out across all test patients, the single most sensitive part of the circumcised penis (strangely enough, the circumcision scar) was still less sensitive than the LEAST sensitive part lost from the uncircumcised penis. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg from my laymen’s perspective. There is more that’s irrecoverable. That’s one of the reasons why the community’s bandied about the idea of changing the term “restored” which suggests a full recovery to, perhaps, something like “regenerated” since some reptiles can regenerate lost limbs, but those limbs never operate as well as the originals.
As for the “easily” part, that word would be a bit of a slap in the face to any of us who’ve worked on foreskin restoration. Assuming you do your research well, your body’s the type that responds well to the procedures, and you happen to stumble upon a method that works well for you right away, you’re still looking at a minimum of about two years to reach the point where you can be as happy with the results as restoration allows for. And that’s two years of using your chosen method (taping, straps, weights, O-rings, etc., etc., etc.) every single day, without fail, often for 12-23 hours (gotta shower) per day. Now take into account the fact that most people don’t find the right method right off the bat, don’t have the perfect skin structure to make restoration move that quickly, will run into roadblocks and complications (including potential injury), have schedules or living situations that make restoring constantly an impossibility, can’t afford or don’t have access to the right supplies, etc., the process can take far, far longer. Some people have been actively restoring for five to ten years (or more)! Personally, I’ve been aware of and following the community for about 12 years now, and my initially very clumsy attempts have been going on and off for about eight now. Only recently have I finally put the effort into retrying the most promising technique with a more patient touch, and have had decent progress over the last few months. But at the rate I’m going, I’m still looking at probably two or more years before I’m comfortable with the results. And I may still need to change my method several times along the way.
This has been a real fear of ours within the movement that people would take our progress as a sign that circumcision’s reversible, and therefore restoring is still a simple choice when the foreskin’s already been taken from the child. Hopefully I’ve explained this well enough that you can understand that that truly is a misconception, and couldn’t be further from the truth. The only way to have a proper choice in your genitalia’s status is for it to be left intact for you to modify as you please. Anything else is merely a poor approximation of what was taken.
I will comment about your comparison between the horror of watching a circumcision, and the horror of watching an abortion. Ignoring any moral implications of either action (this is surely not the place for THAT argument), when comparing the visual observation (“…ever seen…”) of both acts, I personally don’t think a consenting woman undergoing a procedure not visibly too dissimilar from a typical gynecological procedure compares to the sight of a screaming newborn being forcibly strapped to a table, having a clamp applied to its genitalia, and a scalpel used to CUT 50% of the surface area of its penis away before it ever has the chance to use it. Again, this is ignoring any moral outrage you may be justified in feeling about either action.
Anyway, thank you again for respecting where I’m coming from, and I hope I’ve managed to educate you a bit beyond one P&T was able to inform you about. Restoration is an important action for those of us unhappy with our status, but it’s in no way a reasonable substitute for a proper choice.
I hate the fact I was circumcised at birth and have also been attempting to restore my foreskin for years.
Like the vast majority of the world’s males, my son is not circumcised. He’s happy and healthy.
Let’s please break this awful cycle of abuse.
Cate Nelson says
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you would see that we don’t watch television. I haven’t seen any of the others in the “BS!” series. I simply thought we could end discussion of this topic on a lighter note. Hmmm…perhaps it’s only funny (and horrifyinh) to those who already believe in leaving babies intact?
The P&T show was passed to me by a friend after my second son was born: then, after I’d researched and discussed it with numerous medical professionals. I’m not only talking about my holistic pediatrician (who leans pro-circ). But because my younger son had numerous medical tests prenatally, I ran across specialists I wouldn’t have had the chance to discuss this with otherwise. And as I said in the comment section of my first blog on this subject, overwhelmingly, the consensus was: “It’s what you prefer.” They told us that medically, there was no reason to circumcise. Because my dh wanted his son circumcised, he was certainly looking for the doctors to back him up.
I simply couldn’t do “what I preferred” when it came to a newborn’s body. He can do it when he is an adult, if he so chooses.
Chris said on February 27th, 2009 at 2:05 pm
“Edgar Schoen is one of the two major public pushers of circumcision. His website is http://www.medicirc.org. The other pusher is Brian Morris, not a doctor but a biologist, his website is http://www.circinfo.net. Both websites are full of outdated data and full on lies.”
-I’m not a person to see things as black or white the pro-circ radicals as bad as the anti-circ radicals, and Edgar Schoen certainly is not a person I would ever trust to perform a circumcision.
TurboFool said on February 27th, 2009 at 2:53 pm
“I do wish to clear up a misconception on your part, though: Circumcision is not “easily reversible” by any remote stretch of the imagination, and I don’t recall the P&T episode suggesting it was.”
-To someone like me who is not knowledgeable about the process of the foreskin restoration, P&T sure made it seem easy in that video by stating if you tug on the circumcised penis in a strategic way you will end up with a desired result that acts like an uncircumcised penis would. Like wise to someone who doesn’t know about the Jewish religion they would have thought that Rabbi was of the Jewish faith instead of being of Jewish decent but of the Christian faith. I also greatly appreciate your details on foreskin restoration as this is quite fascinating to me in how far such things have progressed and will continue to until a full restoration can be made.
“I will comment about your comparison between the horror of watching a circumcision, and the horror of watching an abortion. Ignoring any moral implications of either action (this is surely not the place for THAT argument), when comparing the visual observation (”…ever seen…”) of both acts, I personally don’t think a consenting woman undergoing a procedure not visibly too dissimilar from a typical gynecological procedure compares to the sight of a screaming newborn being forcibly strapped to a table, having a clamp applied to its genitalia, and a scalpel used to CUT 50% of the surface area of its penis away before it ever has the chance to use it. Again, this is ignoring any moral outrage you may be justified in feeling about either action.”
I agree with the fact “this is surely not the place for THAT argument,” however with the sheer ignorance of the woman making such a statement of that being the most horrific thing she has ever seen, I had to being up that subject. I also agree that it doesn’t compare to watching an infant circumcision, because one is not watching the abortion process as it is happening, however it has very real traumatic effects on a majority of woman who go through abortions which require years of counseling to deal with. On top of that it is much worse seeing, hearing and dealing with an infant who has jaundice or colic cry, or seeing any other medical procedure done on a infant or toddler which also requires to have them be strapped down in much the same way, if not more restrained.
Although I do still disagree with some points I really appreciate reading your knowledgeable input. I greatly admire the fact that you have every right to go off on a angry rant, but rather you have chosen to write with researched facts. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the subject.
Cate Nelson said on February 28th, 2009 at 9:50 am
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you would see that we don’t watch television. I haven’t seen any of the others in the “BS!” series. I simply thought we could end discussion of this topic on a lighter note. Hmmm…perhaps it’s only funny (and horrifyinh) to those who already believe in leaving babies intact?”
That is a tough transition since, to so many, this is not a light subject but I did acknowledge that by first stating “Penn and Teller are hilarious,…”
“And as I said in the comment section of my first blog on this subject, overwhelmingly, the consensus was: “It’s what you prefer.” They told us that medically, there was no reason to circumcise. Because my dh wanted his son circumcised, he was certainly looking for the doctors to back him up.
I simply couldn’t do “what I preferred” when it came to a newborn’s body. He can do it when he is an adult, if he so chooses.”
I appreciate reading that statement, as it holds much more reason then the whole 11 reasons not to circ blog post. This in part because the 5 reasons, the ones that were not just opinion, go back and forth based on the numerous studies out there.
“I also agree that it doesn’t compare to watching an infant circumcision, because one is not watching the abortion process as it is happening, however it has very real traumatic effects on a majority of woman who go through abortions which require years of counseling to deal with.”
I really, really didn’t want to get into this, but I couldn’t let that one go. You seem to place a lot of weight on “studies that go back and forth.” Well, to be fair here, the research done on this has found that that argument has no roots in reality OR real studies, but comes entirely from pro-life groups. Research has found that the majority of women who have abortions need no counseling and have no notable psychological problems after the fact. Again, regardless of your personal opinions on the subject, I’m sure you can agree that presenting accurate information trumps using outright propaganda to “prove” a point. I’ve tried hard to stick to legitimate facts and throw out the aspects of my argument that seem difficult to back up. Please consider doing the same.
“I appreciate reading that statement, as it holds much more reason then the whole 11 reasons not to circ blog post. This in part because the 5 reasons, the ones that were not just opinion, go back and forth based on the numerous studies out there.”
Looking at the five that aren’t opinion:
Since we can’t really prove either way whether strapping a baby down and cutting off a part of his penis causes him long-term trauma, wouldn’t you agree logic dictates it’s safer to NOT do it if there’s not some overwhelming reason why his life or well-being are directly threatened by not doing it?
Girls get far more UTIs, yet a simple treatment with antibiotics is considered perfectly reasonable for them. Do we consider boys so fragile that irreversible SURGERY is preferable to a Z-Pak every few years in the more extreme cases of kids whose parents neglect basic hygiene for them?
The STD issue’s tricky, as the studies HAVE been poorly conducted, but may have a kernel of truth, as it’s likely that as viruses evolved, they latched on to any vector they could find, which might include the specific cells that are partially lost during circumcision. But the USA proves the argument irrelevant. We’re the single most circumcising high-level country in the world, and have the worst STD rates among them. This is due most likely to our abhorrent sexual education, but proves that circumcision can’t trump poor education in protecting us. Meanwhile the countries in the world with the best education also happen to have the lowest rates of circumcision AND the lowest rates of STDs. Clearly education is more beneficial than circumcision.
Phimosis really isn’t much of an issue for studies. The reality is that you can ask any doctor whose knee-jerk reaction isn’t “circumcise” every time he hears “penis” and “problem” in the same sentence, and you’ll find there are plenty of reasonable options employed throughout the world that resolve the relatively rare problem easily without the need for surgery. But since we’re used to circumcising as a norm anyway, we don’t value the foreskin enough to try to preserve it.
Penile cancer is kind of a joke of a reason for circumcision. First off, it’s rare. But for the poor people who do get it, there’s kind of an important distinction: the vast majority of them develop it in their 70s. We’re performing surgery on our infants to prevent a condition they won’t get until they’re elderly, and well past the point where they had the ability to make their own choice on the matter? You see any logic to this? Besides that, if you compare the mortality rate between penile cancer to that of infant circumcision, you’ll be surprised to find they’re quite similar. So when given the choice to perform a procedure that is almost just as likely to kill my newborn as it is to prevent him from dying in his 70s, I don’t think I’m crazy for favoring the odds that he reach his average lifespan.
If you examine each of those, at the absolute worst they seem to be a wash when it comes to research. Either the research is too shoddy on one or both sides to draw a good conclusion, or outside factors counter any benefits the research finds. So if the research is a wash, then that really does seem to lead to “it’s what you prefer” which was the clear point made in that original blog. I prefer not to permanently alter my son’s body without his consent. I’m just still not sure why there are people who find it perfectly reasonable to infringe upon his rights that way.
A Jewish Male Opposing Circumcision says
There is a rapidly growing movement of Jews who are doing without circumcision, and moving toward symbolic and ethical ceremonies.
Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision – A Movie by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon
Brit B’lee Milah (Covenant Without Cutting) Ceremony
Being rational about circumcision and Jewish observance by Moshe Rothenberg, MSW
Challenging the Circumcision Myth by Jan Jaben-Eilon, Jerusalem Post, 4/10/11 (PDF)