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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Circumcision (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Circumcision
lollipop89
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Point well taken, kluekozyte. I agree that ideally this would be a decision made by the individual – if only we could ask an eight-day-old what he wanted! Unfortunately, personal autonomy really is impossible in the case of religious circumcision. To be perfectly honest, this was not something that I carefully took into consideration. I'm lucky that for most issues both sexual and religious I'm very much on the same page as my parents. I can see how someone who hasn't had that experience would have a very different visceral reaction than I would. However, I do agree with you regarding almost all examples of parental vs. personal choice.

On the other hand, I don't think that circumcision can be compared to neglect or abuse – regardless of the ethical issues at hand. Parents do have legal authority on almost all medical and religious decisions. That said, I understand exactly where you're coming from, and think that your point is a very valid one. I still feel strongly about one day circumcising my children, but it is something to think about.

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Heather
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quote:
As you can see, much of the research seems to be inconclusive in making a case either for or against circumcision.
Eh, not really.

The American Pediatrics Association (and the AMA) -- THE association for pediatric medicine in the states, which is highly credible, and which a clinic like Mayo would absolutely stand behind -- has stated for some time now that corcumcision is NOT medically necessary.

This is why, at this point in the states, neither Medicare nor insurance will cover most infant circumcisions: it has to be paid for out of pocket in most areas, since it is consdiered elective COSMETIC surgry.

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Lindz
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I'm a jew, and I guess my opinions on circumcision have been influenced by my religion and it's traditions. But even after reading all these replies and opinions, my decision/opinion to continue the traditions of my culture haven't changed. I'm a person with an open mind and i can see where everyone is coming from. If circumcision isn't directly neccisisary, but it doesn't overall create harm in the aftermath, I think it is something that shouldn't be creating such a problem. I think that if someone chooses not to do it, then they don't. If your culture or religion follows circumcision and you choose not to, then no one has the write to tell you you are wrong or that you aren't faithful to you religion. If you choose to follow it or just plainly choose to follow circumcision for your own reasons, I don't think anyone should tell you it's wrong. I see circumcision as a CHOICE and an opinion. If you don't agree with it, then don't do it. If you want to follow it, then go for it. Just please don't judge other's opinions because they are not the same as yours and please try to keep an open mind also. Thanks

[ 06-25-2006, 03:33 PM: Message edited by: Lindz ]

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kluekozyte
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If everyone was fully informed about the pros and cons of circumcision, I completely believe that it is their own choice. In fact, it would be reprehensible for anyone to try to interfere with that personal choice.

Even if it is a parent deciding for their child (which is almost always the case with circumcision), I think it is ok for the parent to have the choice and not the government, as long as they understand what they are doing, the medical pros and cons, and the fact that their son will never be able to change this decision.

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Irm
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"I think it is ok for the parent to have the choice and not the government, as long as they understand what they are doing, the medical pros and cons, and the fact that their son will never be able to change this decision."

But even then, that does not protect the child. Although being more medically informed might change the minds of SOME parents, many are still likely to put their own personal beliefs--which their son may or may not grow up to adopt--ahead of their child's health.

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kluekozyte
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This is where the debate goes completely out of the field of medicine and science and into ethics and politics. In other words it gets much more controversial. I do believe in the rights of the infant over the parent. But the only way to protect that right is through government legislation, and can't a very good argument be made that the government has no business in a parent's choice for their child?

Now that I think about it, that argument becomes a lot less good when you realize that circumcision is irreversible, has possible side complications and undeniable negative consequences for debatable gains (which are mostly aesthetic). (Note: I'm not talking about religious circumcision here).

The question that I'm asking myself now is 'Should a government legislate against non-consensual circumcisions?' From the thinking that I've just done, and summarized some of in this post, I think the answer to that question is yes. What does everyone else think?

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lollipop89
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quote:
Originally posted by Miz Scarlet:
Eh, not really.

The American Pediatrics Association (and the AMA) -- THE association for pediatric medicine in the states, which is highly credible, and which a clinic like Mayo would absolutely stand behind -- has stated for some time now that corcumcision is NOT medically necessary.

Are you referring to the American Academy of Pediatrics? While it's true that the AAP task force deemed infant circumcision medically unneccesary – which I am certainly not arguing with – the vote is still out as to whether this was a wise decision. In fact, there have been quite a few recent article's in the AAP's own journal outlining how circumcision may in fact prevent against UTI's and HIV infection. My point was that there are both negative and positive factors for parents to consider when making a decision about circumcision – including aesthetic ones.

As far as the issue of autonomy goes...it really is a tricky question. We have the government both mandating (as with vaccinations) and forbidding (as with NGM) physical interventions; if we add circumcision to that list, where do we draw the line? Should the government also have legislation regarding ear piercing? Breast feeding and diet? Going on vacation to third world countries? Doing or not doing all of the above contain risks and can have lifelong impacts for an individual.

However, in America, parents have the right to raise their children as they see best, and to maintain their individual notions of child rearing. That's why parents are allowed to educate, punish, and otherwise rear their children as they please (with obvious limits). What really makes circumcision so different?

Truthfully, I don't know how I'd answer all of these questions – but I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.

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LilBlueSmurf
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The fact that there have been all of these studies and the AAP (as well as Health Canada) still has not changed their stance really makes me wonder about the quality/outcome of these studies. From what i know of one of the HIV studies, it wasn't even done in North America; the study population may not even be similar to our general population ... very little generalizability and the study means little to us.

I would be okay with the government regulating circumcision. Ear piercing and diet (though i'd TOTALLY be in favour of more support from the government re: breastfeeding) and things like this can all be changed. Circumcision cannot be reversed. Ear piercing and such do not cause such undue pain to an unwilling (unwilling because they CAN'T be willing, as babies) participant.

I agree that parents should have the right to raise their children as they see fit, within reason. Just like children must go to school, have the right to food and shelter, and not be abused in any way, i think they also have a right to bodily integrity.

It just seems hugely disprespectful to me for someone to take it upon themselves to decide what body part someone needs or doesn't need.

I see a lot of people making excuses for circumcision in the name of religion, but i don't get that either. Deciding which religion your son should want to be part of (or that he should want one at all) is almost as bad as deciding for your son that he does/does not need a body part. I agree with choice for the infant, not the parents !!

I would like to see a doctors order (for medical reasons, not because the parents want it) required for circumcision.

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logic_grrl
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I see a lot of people making excuses for circumcision in the name of religion, but i don't get that either. Deciding which religion your son should want to be part of (or that he should want one at all) is almost as bad as deciding for your son that he does/does not need a body part.

Except that people can and do decide all the time what religion they want their child to be raised in.

Personally, I'm not keen on removing anyone's body parts, but for a lot of Jews and Muslims, saying that religious circumcision shouldn't be allowed is equivalent to saying that they can't raise their children as Jews (or Muslims).

It's not a simple issue, and you'll find many people who have different views within Judaism and Islam.

But it's not a trivial detail or an "excuse", either - this is something that many people consider to be a central part of their connection to their religion.

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LilBlueSmurf
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Except that people can and do decide all the time what religion they want their child to be raised in.

I realize this and do not agree with this either. Just because it is common place (as is circumcision) doesn't make it 'right' or something i should agree with or do with my own children. I think, in a perfect world, children should be shown ALL religions and have a choice when they're old enough to make such a choice. Making sacrifices (such as your foreskin) to become part of a religion that a child may not even want to be a part of later just boggles my mind.

And as seen on the Jews Against Circumcision website, circ'ing need not be so central to religion as it has been. People pick and choose which parts of a religion they're going to follow anyway (ie, Catholics and sex before marriage -- and i see nothing wrong with this), why should these religions be different?

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logic_grrl
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People pick and choose which parts of a religion they're going to follow anyway (ie, Catholics and sex before marriage -- and i see nothing wrong with this),

But they do that voluntarily. Which is different from saying that people should be forced to give up something that they do feel is a central part of their religion.

As I said, you can find divergent views within Judaism and Islam, and maybe this is something where there'll be increasing cultural shift over time.

But right now, a whole lot of Jews believe that circumcision is an essential part of their male children's connection to their religion and their heritage.

And something like a government ban would inevitably be seen as an assault on religious minorities.

Personally, I'm not arguing in favour of circumcision. But I don't see why it's so "mind-boggling" that people might care about continuing something which many of their traditions maintain is central to their connection with God.

Making sacrifices (such as your foreskin) to become part of a religion that a child may not even want to be a part of later just boggles my mind.

I don't see why, if you take into account the fact that many people (of various faiths) feel that their religion and community is something extremely precious to them and a gift that they want to give to their children. You may not agree with it or share that view, but the motive is real.

And, as a pretty obvious point, parents inevitably make some choices on behalf of their children, including choices which may cause those children distress, whether it's getting injections or going to school when they'd rather play. If they're responsible parents, it's because they honestly think it's worth it for the children's own sake.

Preserving faith and community continuity tends to be a big issue for devout people of any faith, but it's an especially big issue for Jews, for historical reasons. So a lot of people would not be prepared to go, "Hey, why bother? The kid might not even want to be a Jew anyway!"

Personally, I'm an atheist Buddhist and not even officially Jewish anyway (since my mum's not).

But I don't think it contributes to a productive debate - or to changing people's views - if you can't understand where they're coming from.

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"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." - the Talmud

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daria319
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I have to agree with LilBlueSmurf on this one. Making changes to a child's body for a religious purpose is definitely not something I can support. Naturally, the foreskin has a purpose and it seems like a good idea to leave it there and let it serve its purpose.

Other religious practices, such as excluding certain foods, appear to be entirely benign and are not making changes to anything innate. Therefore, I don't see how these would cause any harm.

I just can't support an involuntary cosmetic change made to a child's body that isn't going to benefit him in the long run.

That's my personal decision and it really shouldn't have much influence on someone with a deeply-rooted faith. However, I do believe that parents considering circumcision should be well-informed about the anatomical purpose of the foreskin and any risks that may be involved (if this practice is not already in practice.)

[ 06-26-2006, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: daria319 ]

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Beppie
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I have to say that I think that bringing a child up with a particular religion is different to permanently altering their bodies due to that religion. I'm not religious myself, and if I ever have kids, certainly I will do something similar to what Smurf suggested, but the fact is that whatever you do, you end up giving your kids a set of beliefs and values. When that becomes problematic, in my opinion, is when you start doing things that are harmful in the name of that religion-- whether that be trying to beat the sins out of your children (something that some groups did in Victorian times, believing that it was the only way to stop their children from going to hell) and isolating them from society because of the religion-- and the debate here is whether or not male circumscision is one of those things (I think we'd probably all agree that female genital mutilation crosses the line pretty severely).

Just a note-- a lot of parents do have their daughter's ears pierced in infancy (I've never seen it done to a boy), which I personally think is wrong-- it's not something that affects the ear in the same way that circumscision affects the penis, but there can be health consequences, and it's doing something unnecessary to an infant's body. I think it should be put off long enough for the child to at least make the decision for themselves (I guess at around six or seven at the earliest).

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LilBlueSmurf
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And something like a government ban would inevitably be seen as an assault on religious minorities.

Circ'ing an unwilling participant IS assault, in my eyes. The government has a responsibility to protect it's people, don't they? Physical health should supersede someones right to practice religion, should it not?

Personally, I'm not arguing in favour of circumcision. But I don't see why it's so "mind-boggling" that people might care about continuing something which many of their traditions maintain is central to their connection with God.

Continuing something that has been shown to be extremely painful for the infant (if no analgesia/anesthetic is used -- and even then, there's recovery ...) and changes the way the penis functions doesn't make sense to me. There's tradition, and then there's taking/using new information and not wanting to cause undue pain/harm to you child.

My issue is not with the practice as a sign of a connection with God or the religion (I get that, I promise), my issue is with the fact that the infant cannot consent to the procedure. No amount of "but my religion says ..." is going to change that. If you're so sure he's going to embrace God and the religion, surely you can wait until he'd old enough to make an informed decision and consent to the procedure himself.

And, as a pretty obvious point, parents inevitably make some choices on behalf of their children, including choices which may cause those children distress, whether it's getting injections or going to school when they'd rather play. If they're responsible parents, it's because they honestly think it's worth it for the children's own sake.

The choice to make your children have their vaccinations and go to school and eat their vegetables and get enough sleep at night (and all of those things that 'good parents' do) is not nearly on the same level as removing a perfectly functioning body part! Children can grow up and not get their vaccinations and stop going to school and eat ice cream for dinner forever ... No amount of hoping and praying is going to bring their foreskin back. That cannot be undone, and that is should not a parents choice to make.

But I don't think it contributes to a productive debate - or to changing people's views - if you can't understand where they're coming from.

I think i understand where they're coming from, I just don't agree. I don't agree that parents should have this right to 'give the gift of religion'. I think if a parent really respected their childs inviduality and freedom to practice religion (!!!), they'd leave things as they were.

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joyfulgirl
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lilbluesmurf- i mostly agree with you. i understand where you're coming from and respect your argument. but as a jew i found the following sentance very disrespectful:

"I see a lot of people making excuses for circumcision in the name of religion, but i don't get that either."

excuses?? you make it sound like there are a bunch of jewish parents out there who just can't wait to mutilate their son's penises and blame it on their religion. i'm sure that wasn't your intent, i hope it wasn't.

my mom had my brother circumsized as a baby and i asked her why. she said because it was a cultural norm. to not have him circumsized would have felt weird to her, because circumsition is a central part of judaism. she didn't need an "excuse" because she had no intention of doing anything wrong.

i'm not arguing for circumsition, i'm on the fence about it right now. my point is that if you think its wrong, thats fine. and you've explained very eloquently why you do. but please don't judge and belittle others who make different decisions than you.

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kluekozyte
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Wow, this debate has gotten so intense. And rightfully so. There's just one thing I want to throw in; this is an argument I've heard when I am arguing with Jews about circumcision:

A baby born to a Jewish family is, by definition Jewish, because Judaism is an ethnic community as much as it is a religion. Therefore, the infant really has no choice as to whether or not they are a Jew, and it is ok to peform Jewish rituals on them for this reason.

I don't agree with this, but I do think it is an important point for non-Jews to consider when we're trying to understand their side of the issue. For them, Judaism is much more than a religion that can be simply chosen by an individual at a time of their choosing.

One other thing that bothers me about circumcision as a Jewish ritual: There is no corresponding sacrifice for women/girls. Historically women held a much inferior station in Jewish society than they do now, but the majority of Jews have moved past this. Circumcision is a tradition that only keeps this sexist mentality alive.

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Conker
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This is turning into somethign that is a much bigger deal then i think,, i took a poll randomly of 20 males and 20 females, and i found that then men that were circumsized didnt care and thought it was the best and the few uncirc ones said they wished they were circumsized and 16 out of 20 females all said it was bad and they dont even have a penis to worry about. i think that men prefer a circumsized penis, why idk...i know i do and several other people.

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lollipop89
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LilBlueSmurf, while I appreciate your opinion, I have to say that I respectfully disagree. Religions are not just individual, personal, matters. All religions have a familial and communal component. Many religions have rites of initiation that occur when a child cannot make decisions for himself or herself. If you object to circumcision of baby boys, because the child has no say in the matter, shouldn't you also object to child baptism? (Imagine how many lapsed Christians are psychologically scarred by the fact that they were baptized as babies.) For that matter, you should object to any religious ritual or even religious education before the age of reason. But this is not how religion works, nor is it how families work, nor is it how our Constitution and laws view the role of government.

(You might distinguish circumcision from baptism by saying that circumcision is a surgical procedure. But your objections to circumcision are not medical – they are aesthetic and symbolic. You are aesthetically offended by circumcision. But that is not a good enough reason to oppose it for others, or to ask the government to ban it.)

The Constitution protects freedom of religion. It also protects the right of parents to make fundamental decisions about the raising of their young children. It does not guarantee a right to be free of transient pain.

You say that circumcision is "assault". But that is a loaded term. In the traditional Jewish view, circumcision "perfects" the body of a Jewish baby boy. A person who is uncircumcised suffers the penalty of kareit, or spiritual excision. Basically, no matter how good a Jew he is in every other way, he will not have a place in olam habah (heaven). In any event, as I've said before, parents do all sorts of things that effect the bodies of their children. Putting shoes on toddlers prevents the formation of "natural" protective calluses. Is that assault?

The Government does supersede parental rights when grave abuses are involved. But there is no evidence whatsoever that circumcision constitutes abuse. Apart from some momentary pain (whose effect on a baby is debatable, and which is in any event reduced by topical anaesthesia), circumcision is essentially harmless.

Though traditional Judaism has not always treated women equally (although it has a much better track record than most other ancient religious traditions), circumcision does not, as such, reflect any view that women are inferior. If anything, it reflects the opposite, in that the traditional explanation of why there is no corresponding traditional physical ritual for baby girls is that girls' bodies are born spiritually "perfect," but boys' bodies need to be spiritually "perfected".

[ 06-27-2006, 01:34 PM: Message edited by: lollipop89 ]

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LilBlueSmurf
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Joyfulgirl,

I'm sorry if you've found anything i've said disrespectful or offensive. Circumcision is such a huge issue for me ...

I think 'excuse' was the wrong word, and i certainly did not mean it as it sounded.

Lollipop,

If you object to circumcision of baby boys, because the child has no say in the matter, shouldn't you also object to child baptism? (Imagine how many lapsed Christians are psychologically scarred by the fact that they were baptized as babies.) For that matter, you should object to any religious ritual or even religious education before the age of reason.

I actually am against baptism and educating about only one religion before a child can make a decision for themselves (though you're right; i don't see these on the same level as circumcision).

I'm not against circumcision for aesthetic reasons. I'm not sure where you would have gotten that. I really don't care what it looks like, i care that infants are having this done to them without their consent. And circumcision changes the way the penis functions. This is medical. Pain with circumcision is also not necessarily just transient. Many men have issues with circs being done too tight or hyper/hypo sensitivity.

You're comparing putting shoes on toddlers with surgically removing a body part? Please. To me, as a non Jew (or part of any other religion that believes in circumcision), circumcision is assault. Assault is a "violent physical or verbal attack" (dictionary.com). Cutting off a part of ones' genitals (who is not consenting), to me, is a physical attack.

Apart from some momentary pain (whose effect on a baby is debatable, and which is in any event reduced by topical anaesthesia), circumcision is essentially harmless.

Are you questioning whether babies feel pain during circumcisions (even WITH topical anesthesia)? If you are, i'd be happy to pull up some studies for you. They certainly DO feel pain and this is why many doctors have gone to local anesthetics over topical alone.

[ 06-27-2006, 04:03 PM: Message edited by: LilBlueSmurf ]

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Heather
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I'm going to call a time out.

Can we see if we can't talk about this issue much in a similar way that we discuss isus of abortion here?

In other words: let's recognize the legal choices we have right now. Right now, it is up to parents per this procedure. Any of us might profoundly QUESTION if that IS a sound right for parents to have: after all, like a lot of things, culture has changed a lot over the centuries. Parents used to also be able to choose to prostitute their children: heck, that's biblical, too. That has since been revised.

In time, this might be too....or it might not. But while this IS still a right, it might be easier to discuss this most civilly by recognizing that that right exists. That does NOT mean we have to misrepresent or NOT present potential flaws in that. For instance, it is a medical fact that circumcision DOES change the physical landscape and function of the penis (as well as comfort for female partners during intercourse). I don't think anyone needs to render those issues invisible to say that despite that, from a religious standpoint, it is still something they would do.

Let's also be sure we're not misrepresenting any poster's words. Smurf, for instance, did NOT say her objection was aesthetic. As a nurse, she's coming at it from a medical/health standpoint, which she has been pretty clear about.

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Irm
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The thing is, abortion is an individual choice that a woman can make for herself. Circumcision is a FORCED procedure upon another individual. I think that in order to even begin comparing circumcision and abortion in terms of rights, you would have to make it legal for parents to force an abortion upon their daughter. THEN you could begin to talk about circumcision and abortion as being entangled in the same controversial web of choice, ethics, and freedom. After all, many religions believe that it is sinful to bear children out of wedlock, and that children born as such will have irremovable stains upon their souls. If a family strongly believed this on religious conviction, and thusly forced their 16-year-old daughter to have an abortion when her boyfriend gets her pregnant, would that be OK? Most people are going to call out, "No, of course that's not OK", but the only real difference here is that the 16-year-old female is capable of saying NO to the procedure if she wants to, which somehow makes it more wrong than doing it to a person who doesn't even have the ability to voice that "No" to begin with.

Personally, I believe that the only circumstance under which circumcision should be legal... is as an elective procedure available to legal adults.

Using religious tradition to support bodily mutilation on a helpless individual rings pretty dern deaf on my ears. Religious conviction has been responsible for the burning, torture, mutilation, entrapment, and oppression of countless humans throughout history--but I do not hear many religious individuals standing up to condone these crimes of the past. Rather, they dissassociate themselves from that brutal history and claim independance in the more modern, evolved form of their particular religious choice.

Brushing off circumcision as "no big deal", and comparing it to things like dietary restrictions and baptism, is also very frustrating. We all choose ways to pass down our beliefs to our children, but if someone pours water on my head and chants, that will not harm me when I decide that Christianity simply isn't for me later in life. In the case of circumcision, however, a very potent, real, extreme physical change is being implimented that the individual can NEVER escape from. They cannot "un-choice" it.

To say that circumcision is just a teeny little aesthetic tweak is denial in the highest form. EVEN IF the change WERE purely aesthetic, completely altering the look of a person's genitals is pretty extreme. What if it were the face? What if my religion dictated that my entire face be tattooed blue during infancy so that I could grow up to look like others of my family's religion? That would actually be LESS extreme than circumcision, because a tattoo does not alter my face's natural function.

I find it pretty confusing for a person to say that the govornment restricting them from permanently mutilating their child's body would be an attack on THEIR rights. In reality, it is a protection of the CHILD'S rights.

America does not only guarantee freedom OF religion--it guarantees freedom FROM religion. (Or at least it claims to.) A person's religious persuation does NOT give them the right to over-ride laws that protect others. If your religion says that it is OK to stone a woman who has been unfaithful, you can go ahead and do it, but you bet your arse will be arrested! If it weren't for the fact that the majority of law-makers are, and usually have been, circumcised men, I would not be surprized if the same were true for the practice in question as well.

Religious circumcision, non-religious circumcision... they are NOT separate arguments. They only give off the illusion of being so to people who argue only with THEMSELVES and THEIR OWN choices in mind rather than their CHILDREN'S CHOICES. When it comes down to it, both effect the child in the same way, and a baby having a scalpel shoved into their penis isn't exactly going to be thinking about the spiritual implications.

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-Lauren-
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I thought this would be something interesting to add:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13337203/


Two divorced parents are battling out in court, arguing whether or not their 8-year-old son should be circumsized.

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Irm
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Usually, when a body part of ill, we CURE it, we don't CUT IT OFF. All the details are not presented, but it seems a bit odd to jump to circumcision instead of focusing on healing the inflammations and looking at what larger medical problem is causing them to be re-occuring.
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Beppie
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It appears from the article that the mother is pressing for the procedure on medical grounds, which is quite different to doing it for aesthetic reasons. Of course, it doesn't mention if whether or not any medical experts have given their opinion on whether the inflammation he is experiencing is the result of an abnormal foreskin, or due to a lack of proper cleaning.
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Boldly Obscure
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The thing is, abortion is an individual choice that a woman can make for herself. Circumcision is a FORCED procedure upon another individual.


Well, technically, abortion is also a forced procedure upon another individual(if you count an unborn baby as an individual). The fetus that is subject to an abortion has no more choice in the matter than a baby that is subject to a circumcision. A woman chooses abortion for herself AND for her baby, so it is not really an individual decision. This being said, I agree with most of what RedGodess saying other than the rejection of that comparison which, although not perfect, I think is certainly relevant to this topic.

[ 06-29-2006, 08:09 PM: Message edited by: Aranel ]

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blarg
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I have several questions (and a statement) to make:

1. Is there any credible scientific research that states that being circumcized causes sexual acts to be less pleasurable than if uncircumcized?

2. I have read plenty of studies from many different sources, and most suggest that being circumcized reduces chances of penile cancer, phimosis, and such things SIGNIFICANTLY, not infitesimally. The only studies that suggested that it was a negligible effect (that I read, anyway) were ones from blatanly anti-circumcision organizaitons and such. It seems logical to me that circumcision prevents phimosis, because phimosis pretty much requires that a foreskin be present. My question is, however, how on earth do I go about finding reputable information on circumcision? Everywhere I go, including here on these boards, people have very adamant opinions ("Circumcision is assault", etc.) and I would like information that is presented as neutrally as possible.

And for my statement: I am a circumcized male. My parents had me circumcized when I was however many days old, as per tradition, even though we're not practicing Jews. There were no medical complications, mistakes, etc., and I don't remember a thing from it; I was not traumatized as a baby, afraid to have my diaper changed or anything like that (which I don't think is anywhere near normal). I never had a problem with it growing up, I learned about what circumcision was at a young age from my parents, and I knew what uncircumcized penises looked like (I lived overseas for most of my life). I never felt like I had any problems with my penis, or that they had any problems with theirs; they were just different.

Until now. Recently, within the last year or so, I've come across more and more people who constantly bring up how uncircumcized men are "intact" and "complete", and how bad circumcized men must feel that they are "missing something", and that they cannot be wholly sexually satisfied, and how horrible it is that they were brutally and irreversibly mutilated as babies. I had no problems with being circumcized before, but I do now, thanks to people constantly telling me that I'm "missing out" on something. I can safely say that I have not been nearly as happy recently, because of this, because every time I see my own penis, all I can think about is "What would it be like if it hadn't been circumcized?"

Did anyone ever think that maybe pointing out to all these men that they are "flawed" and "incomplete" and "not intact" could maybe do FAR MORE psychological damage to them than their being circumcized in the first place? I feel like I'm in a middle school locker room, where everyone is pointing at me and saying, "You've been mutilated! You won't be as sexually satisfied!" and so on. I'm sorry, but that kind of thing, is, to me, much more damaging than a procedure which, as far as research goes, has no consistent negative effects.

It's quite difficult to be happy with your self-image when people start going, "How must that feel for all those circumcized men, to sit down and think, 'My penis is wrong.'" Happy with myself, I am not. Not anymore. And it can't be fixed. Thanks a whole freaking lot.

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Heather
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I know this is a loaded topic, but we really need the emotional timbre in this post to be taken down a notch, everyone, okay?

Blarg: a lot of why this topic in general is getting more attention is that MEN have come to the table with this. Over the last ten years or so, more and more men's groups have been formed around this issue (where men are discussing how they feel), men have been increasing awareness of it in a lot of different places. As well, the change in the AMA policy, and that of larger *medical* insititutions towards circ, to stating it is NOT medically necessary, also brought it into the forefront. So, while it's understandable to feel mighty weird, even bad, about the whole thing, it's not sensible to blame the messengers, nor the people talking about it here. For instance, we talk a lot here at Scarleteen with people who have been in abusive relationships and didn't realize it, who have been raped and didn't realize it: ultimately, if a person has anger about something having been done to them, directing it at anyone who's, in general, just talking about the thing done, rather than someone doing that thing, just isn't fair.

A circumcized penis and an uncircumcized penis are, in many ways, simply different. Obviously, a penis without a foreskin is not how nature intended, that's obvious, and you already knew that. But in most ways, it is just as functional.

Per the sexual pleasure angle, here's what the foreskin does, so that you understand better and can draw your own conclusions. Generally -- not always, but generally -- men with foreskins have some greater sexual sensitivity both because the foreskin provides friction, a little extra lubrication (to move it, largely), and because the most sensitive parts of the penis aren't always exposed. The foreskin does also contain some sensory nerves. It's sometimes suggested it makes a difference with erection ease; it's sometimes suggested that the increased sensitivity and "cushioning" of the foreskin, as well as the extra lubrication, makes vaginal intercourse more enjoyable for female partners. (I have never seen any data done to suggest it makes, however, any difference with male partners, which may be due to that work just not being done, or may just be logical per physiology when it comes to anal, oral, manual sex.)

This is such a loaded issue, so per weblinks, a lot of the context of studies is placed in arenas that aren't exactly balanced or benign. But the wiki on this does a nice job of providing some information on a lot of studies without a bias I can see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_effects_of_circumcision and it lists lots of sources at the bottom.

And believe me when I tell you that given you're at a site with a majority of women, who are inundated with messages everywhere they go every day about how imperfect their bodies are, about how if they're not the right weight, shape or size, they'll never be happy (and if those women have ever been raped, being told very distinctly they've been permanently sullied, had something taken from them they can never get back), even though this is not my discussion, I feel confident in saying that those having the discussion are sympathetic and have no intent on making any man feel bad here about his body.

[ 06-30-2006, 11:00 AM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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blarg
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Thanks for responding to my concerns. My point was not so much to "blame the messenger" as you put it, but rather to point out the very hostile, derogatory language (at least, it seems that way) that people use when referring to topics regarding circumcision. I think that using the word "intact" to describe uncircumcized males puts a very huge emphasis on the idea that these men are somehow more than those who are "not intact". More appropriate would be "cut" and "uncut" or even just "circumcized" and "uncircumcized"; these are just as easy to say or write, and mean basically the same thing, but people insist on using very loaded terms, which in turn makes people much more riled up and likely to be close-minded . . . as evidenced, for example, in my huffy language in my previous post.

It's not that I felt like people talking about circumcision suddenly made me have low self-esteem. I have a very huge problem, though, with people just kind of going, "How does it feel to know that your parents had you mutilated as a baby?" Questions like that are not only biased towards a very specific viewpoint, but also not constructive. It's not helpful for anyone to constantly express pity for people who have, in their opinion, been irreparably violated, whether the people who were actually circumcized feel that way or not. It's like going up to a heavy person and saying, "Don't you feel bad about being morbidly obese?"

I guess my ultimate point is this: circumcized individuals, in general, should not be portrayed or treated as victims. I know plenty of people feel that they are, but many others don't care, and constantly pressing the question of "Are you mad that you were circumcized without your permission?" does nothing to help anything.

Thanks for the link. I already read the Wikipedia article on all this, but it's good to know that it is considered more or less unbiased.

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Heather
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quote:
I guess my ultimate point is this: circumcized individuals, in general, should not be portrayed or treated as victims. I know plenty of people feel that they are, but many others don't care, and constantly pressing the question of "Are you mad that you were circumcized without your permission?" does nothing to help anything.
The only thing with that is that that isn't the standpoint of some circumcized men. In fact, a few years ago, I was approached by a group of circ'd men and their female partners who were anti-circ activists, and asked why I did not make this a big part of my activism. (Why I don't is irrelevant to what I'm about to say, and would take up more space than needed, but in a nutshell, I'm not male and I've bigger fish to fry in terms of the crappy stuff patriarchy and the world doles out on women, first.) Some men DO want the approach that you don't like; other men, like yourself don't, and it's a matter of personal preference, even in the language used. Lots of folks, for instance, don't like the term "cut," because it's violent and prefer non-intact, because it's more clinical. Plenty of cir'c men DO want to talk about unpleasant feelings they experience regarding their circumcision, and DO want to be asked, and resent NOT being asked. Yadda yadda.

It's just not so simple, and there is a wide array of male opinion on the matter, from those with and without foreskins.

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lollipop89
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quote:
Originally posted by LilBlueSmurf:
I'm not against circumcision for aesthetic reasons. I'm not sure where you would have gotten that. I really don't care what it looks like, i care that infants are having this done to them without their consent. And circumcision changes the way the penis functions. This is medical. Pain with circumcision is also not necessarily just transient. Many men have issues with circs being done too tight or hyper/hypo sensitivity.

Perhaps I didn't articulate what I was trying to say as well as I could have- I certainly didn't intend to put words in your mouth, and I apologize if I have. I guess what we do agree on is that circumcision is a huge issue for both of us.
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Heather
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(That was beautiful diplomacy, lollipop.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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blarg
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Yeah, I guess I get a little huffy about this topic, mostly because when it comes up, it always seems to be accusatory in some way. I know that's not the intention, but there really seem to be no neutral or non-strong opinions on the subject . . .

I know there are plenty of circumcized men who do consider themselves victims. My point is that I, personally, don't want to be treated like a victim, because it makes me feel worse about myself over a matter that, honestly, held absolutely no importance or significance whatsoever for me until I noticed such strong, polarized (and sometimes very hostile) opinions on it. Sometimes it seems like people are going, "How could you possibly not be distressed over having been circumcized without your permission?" Once again, I know that's not the intention at all . . . Anyway, as such, I don't think it's really fair to use terms and phrases that are obviously loaded ("intact" vs. "uncircumcized", etc.); the questions themselves that must be asked and addressed are loaded enough as it is.

I don't want to suggest that people not talk about it; sorry if I came across that way. It's just, I think language choice and tone is what alienates most people (including myself) from this topic. I think we'd get more response, in general, if the language we use is more neutral. That's all. Thanks.

[ 07-01-2006, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: blarg ]

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Heather
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Thing is though, there realy ISn't neutral language all men agree on. None that I know of, anyway, or have never heard men argue about.

Even "uncircumcised" gets in trouble because it implies that being circumcised is the "normal" state, since the other is a grammatical negative, just like say, calling women who have breast implants "implanted," and those without, "unimplanted" would be. While that language may seem better to YOU, to uncirc'd men, it can make THEM feel worse about their bodies, via the implication that the default and normal state is to be circumcised.

[ 07-01-2006, 01:03 PM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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blarg
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I see your point, though I still think that "circumcized" and "uncircumcized" are the most neutral currently existing terms, considering it's stating presence or lack of said operation . . . How about "those with foreskin" and "those without foreskin"?
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Heather
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There ya go. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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