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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Circumcision (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Circumcision
Irm
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[Just a quick personal note--I turned 18 on the 23rd of May. I have now magically acquired all of the skills I need to be a responsible adult contributer to society. Exciting! :)]

And now, for something totally different...

Well, not really, but the detremental social/political effects on MALE sexuality is not very frequently discussed here. So one for the men, coming up.

It's a really, really touchy subject... but one which, for that very reason, continues to be problematic.

The vast majority of American men are circumcised at birth, even though:

*They have no say in the matter of having their penis mutilated (comparable to female genital mutilation that takes place in other cultures)
*96% of the time, no anesthesia (sp?) is used, and when it is, it cannot protect against the most painful parts of the procedure, and studies have shown that infants suffer extreme trauma from the painful event
*The foreskin accounts for about 50% of the penile erogenous tissues
*The foreskin serves a VERY necessary role in protecting the penile glands, as well as producing lubrication during sex
*The process of circumcision actually creates MORE risks of infection and complications than those which it claims to offset later in life (though there is no conclusive medical data to support that cutting off the foreskin lowers chance of infection--IN FACT, medical data proves that the foreskin actually helps to PREVENT infections and promotes cleanliness)

There is really not a big question about whether or not removing the foreskin is a faulty practice from a health standpoint. The foreskin is a healthy, natural, necessary part of the male penis, and is required in order to experience the full range of sexual pleasure that the body is capable of. (That is not to say that a circumcised man cannot experience wonderful sexual pleasure--however, he is, technically, experiencing less than a man with all of his nerve-endings in tact, and many men who have been circumcised as ADULTS say that sex with and without the foreskin is like night and day.)

The real question is: given how brutal, unnatural, and ultimately damaging to the child this practice is... WHY does it still continue? And why does a large sector of the medical community still condone it, despite evidence of severe psychological and physical side-effects?

The first answer that pops into mind is, of course, religion. However, considering the fact that this practice is so overwhelmingly practiced in America, where the religious statistics don't exactly support that all of these circumcision victims come from families in which it is a religious requirement, there must obviously be other forces at work.

Clearly, it is an issue that has a difficult time finding an ending point... because as long as males continue to be circumcised, and then grow up to be doctors, politicians, etc., the practice of circumcision will continue, because how much emotional agony, social ridicule, and professional frustration would it take for a circumcised man to stand up and say, "Look. My penis is damaged. Let's not do this anymore."

For a circumcised man to even begin to accept the reality that circumcision might be a detrimental thing, the thought is immediately forced: "My penis is wrong."

MUCH of male culture is based on being protective of their penises, or their sperm count, or their "manliness". Some men are very outward with this, while for others it is a constant subconscious societal influence, much like those more noticable ones for women that we discuss here so often. (Yet others, of course, are complete exceptions to the rule, or don't feel that they are male at all, but I'm speaking mainstream and majority-wise for now.)

Imagine if you had to actually sit down and accept that you had been mutilated. Imagine if you actually had to sit down and accept that you had been robbed of the full sexual experience. Imagine if you actually had to sit down and work through a grueling mountain of self-image issues, in which you were bogged down by a mentality of, "I am incomplete." Considering how much self-worth is often cast to the genitals, it is a BIG DEAL.

And that big deal is exactly the reason why circumcision has not been shot down as an inhumane or at the very least unadvisable practice in America. Doctors still actually further the myths that they were told to feel better about their OWN circumcisions by offering them to newborn children, while most of them didn't even cover the foreskin in their anatomy class in school, because it is considered SUCH a discarded, worthless body part in America.

World-wise, less than a quarter of all men are cut. Yet within American borders, many men can actually go a whole lifetime without seeing an uncut penis. Even MEDICAL HEALTH BOOKS and SEXUAL EDUCATION BOOKS that have illustrations or photos of penises generally just have a picture of a circumcised penis, completely neglecting the "uncut version", as it were.

This is a place of societal sexual pressures crossing gender-lines. Not only does the misinformation about circumcision, as well as the aesthetic elitism of circumcised penises, continue to push men to ACCEPT the decision... but it pushes young mothers to MAKE them. Many mothers who have allowed their child to be circumcised feel horrible about it afterwards, or are already uncomfortable with the idea of causing harm to their child. However, both doctors and circumcised fathers tend to push for the procedure when the mother is uncertain.

Again, this is a very emotional issue, and I'm sure that the responses I get from males on this topic will be less-than-pleasant, as it IS a very hurtful topic. However, please understand that it is the PRACTICE of circumcision that I am speaking against, and not anyone's penis specifically. What you have, you grew up with and are familiar with, and I am certainly not discouraging self-love and self-confidence of those body parts.

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LilBlueSmurf
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I'm not really sure where you got your stats in the beginning part of your thread ... I can't really speak to circumcision in the US, but i've seen and assisted with a few circumcision here in Canada.

We DO use anesthesia (or at least analgesia), 100% of the time. When i was in my second year of nursing school i saw them only using EMLA cream ... Not sure how useful that was, but it didn't look very useful at all. I saw other hospitals using baby tylenol 30mins before the procedure, as well as a local anesthetic, which appeared to be much more successful in reducing pain. I'm sure many of them didn't feel a thing -- this is the beauty of local anesthetic.

Want to know the number one reason (i've found) that newborns are circumcized? Because their father is. And hey ... Dad doesn't remember it ... Dad survived ... Dad's happy with his penis now ...

I also know that numbers of circumcisions (supposedly) have been falling ... at least in Canada. I didn't see this myself, however. I did my pregrad (4 weeks, fulltime) in a nursery; I did not send one baby boy home with his foreskin intact in the whole four weeks! My preceptor had told me it was about 50/50 ... :/

Fortuneatly, from my personal experience, none of the healthcare staff is pushing for circumcision. There is no medical need for it and we know that. Why we're still doing it? I don't know. I do know that it isn't covered by health insurance anymore. I saw a couple have to borrow money to have the procedure done ... They couldn't afford it but wanted it done right away anyway.

I think it continues because the demand is high enough. ... I don't know. I think it sucks, too.

I can't say what i'd feel like if i'd had my genitals mutilated, because i haven't. I have a hard time feeling sorry (empathy, sympathy, ...) for men who have been circumcized because not all of them feel they've been damaged, mutilated, or incomplete ... I'm not going to go up to a circumcized man and ask him if he's mad at his parents for 'doing this' to him. Many men really have no problem with it. It's not something they remember and because they've never had life with a foreskin, they have nothing to compare their current life to. I think i'd be offended, too, if someone suggested i SHOULD feel this way when i didnt.

That all said, I DO feel bad for men who are upset that the decision itself was taken away from them. THAT is not fair. THAT is why we should stop routine newborn circumcisions. Wanna wait til you're 18? Go for it. Then you can consent. Newborns cannot give informed consent.

... I have lots and lots of other thoughts on this that i'm having trouble forming right now. We'll see where this thread goes and i'm sure i'll be back ...

[ 06-02-2006, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: LilBlueSmurf ]

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Heather
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Just a quick note (don't have time slotted for Scarleteen on my agenda today, but good topic, however delicate and precarious).

Comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation isn't particularly wise in my book. If comparison must be made, comparing it to labiaplasty is much more sound, save that for most, male circumcision is done without the consent of the infant who will be a man. Added note: or, as logic_grrl succinctly noted, clitoral hood removal, a really apt comparison.

FGM is almost always literally forced, it is usually NOT done in infancy, it is NOT done with ANY idea (however mistaken) of medical health, instead, ONLY to serve patriarchal desires (though it is nearly always performed by a group of women). In most cases, it involves infibulation, where the clitoris is removed (and the foreskin is not comparable to the clitoris per nerve endings or sexual function), as well as the labia minora AND the labia majora, as well, are cut, all rawly stitched together to leave only an opening of the vagina which will allow menstrual flow through (and in many cases, even that isn't done). Most often, NO aneasthesia is given. Often, the instruments used to do this are broken glass, or scissors, or a piece of sharp tin. The setting in which it is performed is VERY rarely one with sanitary conditions, and very rarely one with ANY concern for the person's pain.

Women often die from FGM procedures, or are rendered infertile, and usually live with crippling, constant pain, especially during intercourse (and many will be cut AGAIN to even make intercourse possible). Obviously, having the one organ on the human body with more nerve endings than any other, and the primary female organ -- not a part of it -- removed has profound effects on female sexuality and any chance of female sexual enjoyment, which is a big part of the point: FGM is expressly done for the primary purpose of removing female sexual enjoyment to better serve male sexual desires and mores.

A wide variety of infection and injury often occurs: of the bladder and urinary tract, of the kidneys, PID, tumors, abcesses, etc. While losing *some* sexual sensation AND the risks of infection from male circumcision are NOT a good thing, they are nothing even close to the risks and injuries of FGM.

There's a lot more to say about FGM, but the only reasonable comparison to make for men would be castration entire, and in a very, VERY different setting -- per the procedure, per the cultural impetus -- that circumcision is done nearly all of the time. None of that is said to belittle circumcision. Rather, it is said NOT to belittle FGM.

[ 06-02-2006, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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logic_grrl
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*They have no say in the matter of having their penis mutilated (comparable to female genital mutilation that takes place in other cultures)

Well, no, not comparable, really.

It would be "comparable to FGM" would be if male circumcision in its mildest form involved removing the entire glans of the penis, with other common forms involving removal of the shaft and sometimes the scrotum as well.

Male circumcision, as currently practised in the West, is roughly equivalent to removing the hood of the clitoris.

Of course, this doesn't say anything about whether male circumcision is right or wrong.

But treating it as equivalent to FGM is anatomically incorrect and misleading.

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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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Beppie
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I agree with Logic and Miz Scarlet as per the equivalency issue.

Personally, I feel that circumcision is wrong, and the reasons given for it, outside of a religious context, are aesthetic, and that is really just a learned value. I can't really comment on the cultural reasons for the practice still being so widespread in the US. I know that in Australia circumcision was phased out as general practice in the 1970s, and more males of my own generation are uncut than cut.

I have mixed feelings about people who practice circumcision for religious reasons. My sense of ethics says that religious circumcision should not be done until the boy in question is old enough to decide for himself. However, I have read claims that the procedure is significantly more painful once a young man has entered puberty, resulting in a hospital stay of up to a week simply to control the pain (this is from an account of someone I know IRL who enquired about having it done in adulthood). Of course, it is always possible that babies also feel this pain, and just can't tell us about it as effectively.

[ 06-02-2006, 11:33 PM: Message edited by: Beppie ]

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LilBlueSmurf
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I really have mixed feelings regarding comparing circumcision with FGM.

They are comparable in that it IS mutilation of the genitals in which the affected party either has not consented or has been pressured to provide consent. ... And i think that's about where the comparison ends.

Does the how and why and how much (tissue) really matter? Is one worse than the other? Why?

If i had a piece of my body taken from me without my consent, i'm not sure a "well at least you had anaesthesia" or "well at least they meant well" would matter. In the end, it is taking what is not yours to take for no good (medically sound) reason.

Again ... I'm not really sure where i stand on this. I guess i can see both sides.

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-Lauren-
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As a young woman growing up in the US, the only kind of penis I've ever seen is uncircumsized. I didn't even know foreskin existed until I looked it up online.

While I do wish that circumsision would end as a standard, that's like telling society to stop being obsessed with plastic surgery or breast augmentation. Some may listen, but overall it'll probably stay the ideal/norm.

One male friend of mine said he was angry at his parents for leaving him uncircumsized. He underwent hell in the locker room in middle school, and girls thought it was disgusting. He had to go (I mean, in the case, very much wanted to) into the hospital at 20 to get it done, which I think is probably quite a bit more traumatic. The whole attitude is very regrettable, but I think most parents know what discrimination (is that the correct term?) their sons may face, so they go ahead with it anyway.

I must admit, openly at this point, that I too am taken aback by the appearance of an uncircumsized penis. I don't think it's gross, but it seems almost like learning to look at/touch a new bodypart, even though it's the same one. And the fact that mentality can exist is pretty darn sad.

[ 06-02-2006, 11:11 PM: Message edited by: Miss Lauren ]

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Conker
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Im circumsized and im glad, i didnt have a choice nor do i have nightmares or post-trauma from the event. After learning and fully understanding why mine was different i feel like im glad ive been circumsized and will most likely have it done to my child when i get one of course which is hopefully not any time soon.

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Blink
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I mostly agree with what has been said on this thread about how circumcision at birth is not a good idea, and I'm glad that there is also a discussion about comparing male circumcision with FGM.

I want to introduce something that might complicate this even more. Some recent research has suggested that circumcised men are far less likely to contract HIV during unprotected vaginal intercourse. People have suggested making circumcision more widely available in Africa, and there has been an increase in African men requesting the procedure.

Is it ethical to support making circumcision more widely available, or encouraging circumcision, in Africa for the purpose of reducing the spread of HIV, while still believing that circumcision is a poor choice for men in places where HIV is not as prevalent?

On one hand, I think that condoms and education can be more effective in reducing HIV transmission than circumcision, (although the study suggests that this is not the case) and don't wish to support a program that would permanently alter someone's body and reduce their sexual pleasure just because they happen to be in a situation where they are at increased risk of contracting HIV. At the same time, I think that, because circumcision does appear to be helpful in reducing the spread of HIV, it should be made accessible to anyone who chooses to undergo the procedure, even if it may not be the best or only choice for those who are concerned about contracting HIV. (Note: When I talk about making it "accessible" or "available" I basically mean making the services affordable and convenient for anyone who requests them.)

What do you all think?

Source for some background on this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/782656.stm

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Irm
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I want to say, first off, that my comparison to FGM was not a psysiological or medical comparison. The line that I was drawing was the societal pressure and acceptance of both procedures, and how they can become accepted as "norm", despite their negativity, because of being wide-spread. Much like many men say that they are OK with having been altered because it is societally accepted, some women who have survived genital alterations also claim that their sexuality is in no way impaired and that they are just fine and normal. I apologize if I offended or misinformed by not being more clear.

Something that I do want to point out here: It seems that the argument FOR circumcision is SOCIETALLY ACCEPTED AESTHETICS.

quote:
"One male friend of mine said he was angry at his parents for leaving him uncircumsized. He underwent hell in the locker room in middle school, and girls thought it was disgusting."
How is this any different from a woman feeling that her breasts or her labia are completely disgusting, not attractive to men, or not up to the mainstream societal image of "sexy", thereby getting dramatic plastic surgery so that she can feel good about herself through the eyes of others? I would say that in fact, it is WORSE, because it REMOVES A VITAL FUNCTION, and actually drastically DECREASES the very sexuality that many are trying to preserve.

quote:
Im circumsized and im glad, i didnt have a choice nor do i have nightmares or post-trauma from the event.
I was referring to infant post-traumatic stress. You wouldn't remember that as an adult/teenager, although speculative research says that one can detect infant trauma by how it effected early development.

May I ask--what WERE the reasons you were told for being circumcised?

Edit: And to address the HIV question... If someone is out there, having unprotected sexual activities with infected people, they are GOING to get infected, even if you can delay that slightly by decreasing their chances. To start chopping off body parts in place of proper safer sex is an act of desperation that ultimately won't be any more successful than the campeign for condoms seems to be right now.

[ 06-03-2006, 12:20 PM: Message edited by: RedGoddess ]

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Heather
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quote:
I would say that in fact, it is WORSE, because it REMOVES A VITAL FUNCTION, and actually drastically DECREASES the very sexuality that many are trying to preserve.
So does/can labiaplasty, actually. And the health risks of implants are greater than those of circumcision.

I earnestly think the best bet in having a discussion about this is to avoid comparing it to women's issues. Different class, different issues, as it is (especially since the sexual ideals in ALL cases anyone is trying to live up to are via a priapic hegemony), and comparisons just really seem to muck up the whole matter.

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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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Rumored
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You know what? Infant circumcision is illegal in the US, plain and simple. You can only conduct cosmetic surgeries on infants in the case of gross deformities, not because you don't like the way the human body looks. Could you imagine if a couple wanted their sons nipples removed?

It makes me sad that this law isn't enforced in the case of circumcisions. My sister's freind had her son circumcised, and even well after his scars healed over, he's terrified of having his diaper changed.

ADD-ON: Something else nobody seems to have mentioned: the foreskin doesn't retract in infancy, so doctors forcibly retract it and tear it away from the glans. In adults, the forskin is retractible and the penis is larger so the doctor can see more clearly, although babies heal faster.

[ 06-03-2006, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: Rumored ]

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Heather
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quote:
Infant circumcision is illegal in the US, plain and simple. You can only conduct cosmetic surgeries on infants in the case of gross deformities, not because you don't like the way the human body looks.
I know of no law which makes infant circumcision illegal in the U.S. (or cosmetic procedures for infants and minors.) Certainly, given issues of consent, it is precarious, but given that parents can lawfully consent to medical procedures for their children, unless the parents do not consent, I do not know of any law which could be applied here. It'd sure be interesting if there was one (especially given that genital surgeries are STILL arbitrarily done on infants with "ambiguous" genitalia), though I'd be more than shocked if there were, given hospitals and doctors overall caution per malpractice issues.

Might you reference the federal law you're referring to?

[ 06-03-2006, 04:36 PM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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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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daria319
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Personally,this is one issue my fiance and I actually agree on. Circumcision is pointless. It simply causes more harm than good, and it is an unnecessary, sometimes unhealthy, alteration of the human body. The child has no say in an alteration of his body that will greatly affect him for the rest of his life.

My fiance, having been an unexpected child born to a young, low-income family, remains uncircumsized -- and he's not only happy, but healthy as well. His young half-brother, on the other hand, underwent the expensive procedure because his mother insisted. Get this -- the woman is a labor and delivery nurse!!

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Rumored
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Ok, I would have SWORN that there was a law like the one I mentioned in my previous post on the books in the USA, but I can't seem to find it. Does anyone know where I read this? I can't remember, but it was a website looking at the ethics of circumcision. Perhaps it was British or Australian?

I'm now freaking out over all the horror stories encountered while looking at non-theraputic cosmetic surgery laws re:children.

I fail to see how this isn't legally classified as child abuse in our country, I really do. I know that most circumcised infants grow into happy, healthy adult men with normal sexual function, but that doesn't somehow negate the fact that they once suffered, even if they don't remember it.

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Conker
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im catholic so thats why i was circumsized, and from what ive seen im glad i am, sure maybe still today this day i have a little scar, but im perfectly happy with myself and my circumsized penis, im not sure what seems so bad about it. i dont feel mad about it or that my sexuality has been cut short and i didnt have the choice...like i said im happy [Smile]
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LilBlueSmurf
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And we're happy that you're happy, Conker [Smile]

The point is that it IS a medically unnecessary procedure. It is an invasive, painful procedure that (from my own personal experience) in which parents are rarely fully educated before giving consent. Not that i have tons of years of experience, but of the parents i've talked to, not one of them cited religion as the reason for their infants circ. As i said earlier, the number one reason that *I* have seen is that because the baby's father is circumcized, so what the heck ...

What the heck in deed.

I am interested as to why you would choose to circumcize a baby boy (if you had one). I'm not familiar at all with religions (any of them, really), but i was not aware that the catholic religion required circumcision. Do you know what happens during a circumcision?

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ladydexter
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I genuinely see no point for circumcision.

Says the resident Jew. My future sons, should I have any, won't be having bits chopped off them, religion or no. I just don't believe in it.

And an interesting point: in the UK, a CIRCUMCISED penis is weird. I wonder why it's such an American/Canadian thing? I know only one circumcised male in my entire (extensive!) social circle - and he voluntarily got it done because he was having medical issues!

Just food for thought.

(A further, sad note: when my boyfriend (who is American) told me he was uncircumcised and we got into a discussion about it being unnecessary, he said "it's [done] for medical reasons. 'Cause it's easy to get problems if you don't take care of it properly." - to which I said there was no medical proof that it was better for your health, any more so than a good date with a bar of soap!)

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Heather
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For the record, there is nothing in Catholicism which supports circumcision: quite the opposite, actually.

http://www.cirp.org/library/cultural/catholic/
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03777a.htm

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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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icygirl88
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I don't know if any of you are Jewish or not (aside from Ladydexter), so I'll explain a bit what happens from my perspective. When you have a baby boy, there is a ceremony called a bris (for girls it's called a naming, but there's no surgery involved). Present at the bris are a rabbi, a doctor called a Mohel who specializes in circumcision, and usually lots of family and friends. It is not usually thought of as a horrible procedure which mutilates the baby, but rather a welcoming of the baby as a member of the Jewish people. I'm not really an expert on the subject, but I know all the guys in my family have been circumcized because it's part of the tradition. I am not sure of the procedures that a Mohel uses, but I know that they are very precise, quick, and meant to cause minimal pain possible to the baby.

If I have children later on and I have a boy, I will probably have a bris for him because it is part of the tradition. It's easy for people who are not very connected with a religion to say, "Circumcision is useless... religion is outdated... we shouldn't continue it." But for me, my religion is basically all I've got to identify with. Some traditions I don't agree with (like some orthodox customs such as separating men and women in synagogue, etc.), but something as important as a bris is something that I have an obligation to continue. It is expected of me in my family and most Jewish families that I know. I don't know if any of you could understand this, but I can't separate from my background and my family which I am proud of. Does that make sense?

I can't speak from a perspective of people who get their children circumcized for non-religious reasons, but just wanted to give a Jewish perspective on this, if I could...

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Heather
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Just as a note, plenty of Jews feel the same way about circumcision that you feel about separation of men and women, Icy. There are a good many Jewish activists who are increasingly anti-circumcision.

So, if and when the time comes for you to make that choice, if you do not WANT to do that to your child, you may discover you will have more options than you anticipate.

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LilBlueSmurf
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There's a website too, for more information about/for Jews against circumcision.

http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/

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icygirl88
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quote:
Originally posted by Miz Scarlet:
Just as a note, plenty of Jews feel the same way about circumcision that you feel about separation of men and women, Icy. There are a good many Jewish activists who are increasingly anti-circumcision.

So, if and when the time comes for you to make that choice, if you do not WANT to do that to your child, you may discover you will have more options than you anticipate.

I do not feel I am being FORCED to give my child a circumcision. Yes, I know there are other options. The point is that carrying on traditions is generally pretty important to many Jews in keeping the religion alive, and that is why most Jews CHOOSE to do it.

And I assure you that the "good many" that you speak of is NOT the majority among the Jewish population. A bris is one of the central mitzvot of Judaism. Separation of women and men is not NEARLY as fundamental, and only exists in very orthodox synagogues, whereas circumcision is generally upheld by practicing Jews in all sects.

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LilBlueSmurf
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Did you read the link i gave you?

It asks some very valid questions;

quote:
What does tradition mean to you? Does it mean putting your son's welfare second? Do you blindly follow tradition even when it maims and mutilates?

...

If you were told to circumcise your daughter’s vulva, would you blindly obey? Or would you question the order and choose to protect your daughter? Shouldn’t we treat our boys with the same consideration and respect?



[ 06-06-2006, 12:49 PM: Message edited by: LilBlueSmurf ]

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Heather
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Let's please, for the record, be sure to keep this discussion civil.

No one said you were forced: I simply said that you may find, as time passes, should the time come that you have a child, you may have more options than you see now, even within your tradition, given you said "probably." Given also that you're sexually active without marriage, and that "probably," I just gave you that information because it seems that there are even central parts of Judaic tradition that you adapt for yourself. I sais a good many meaning just that: I did not SAY majority.

Not all that long ago, there weren't female rabbis, for instance. Often enough, religious traditions change over time from original/existing doctrine and tradition, often based on people simply having more information than they once did.

Physiologically, we can be absolutely sure that circumcision is NOT painless, just as we can be sure that excising the clitoral hood of a female infant wouldn't be. Physiologically, we know for certain that circumcision has effects which are not beneficial. And RedGoddess made pretty clear when she strated this thread that what she really wanted to discuss were NON-religious reasons one might do this, since a whopping number of those who circumcise are not Jewish. It's likely best that is where the cnetral focus of the discussion should remain, and I see no reason why it can't, since the physiological issues, as well as the false beliefs about the physical issues of circumcision are a factor no matter the situation at hand.

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PenguinBoy
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Why does it exist in american historically? How far back does it go? i don't think it came from europe, cos we don't have circumcisions, apart from jews. I think allot of english people would be supprised, as i was, to find that most americans are circumcised.

I don't really like any religions. The actual spiritual values are cool, but all the other stuff just confuses it all. In my opinion, as with other things in other religions, circumcision in judaism is a way of making you different and a way of seperating you from non-jews. How it traveled to other cultures i'm not sure, maybe it didn't come from judaism, i don't know. In some cultures i know that it was performed at the comming of age.

(hmmm, i totally want to avoid a religious discusion, and i've said that it's comparable to paralelles in other religions, i'm only addressing judaism because it's applicable to this topic. just to clarify.)

it's strange how things are accepted, merely because they are the norm. but i suppose that just reflects allot of other things.

If one couple did, as stated above, decide to remove their babies nipples, because they thought it would stop them from getting some sort of disease, or to welcome them into the familly. there would probably be an outcry. and accusations of child cruelty.

i know that circumcised people in my community would have a real tough time at school. There was allot of anti-semetic insults towards me when i was in middle school "AAAAA JEW BOY!" "YOU AIN'T GOT NO FORESKIN!!" and i'm not circumsised and i'm not jewish. So i can imagine it being really tough if i was!

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petertje2002
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As an older man, grown up between all kinds of religions (cath, jews, islam etc), but also the son of a (late) medicin, I am sure that the source of circumcision lays that far in the past that hardly anybody remembers. But in fact the source lays in the fact that in these countries as Israel an Arabia was hardly any water to clean the penis well under the forskin - people used sand for a great part of "washing" themselves !
In that circumstances a circumsized penis is easier to "clean" than an intact one.
So ... it is'nt necessary any longer !
So ... stop it !
(I don't think I'll see that moment !)
Keep fighting it !
Peter

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Conker
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o well i had know idea being catholic had anything to do with it, i guess i just had it doen cause father did, but maybe im looking at it wrong but i just see it as one less step when putting a condom on.

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Irm
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I want to back up that a lot of Jews choose against circumcision, and also that religious practices change with time as culture calls for. The practices that one may now see as "not very central to the religion at all" were probably essential at some point, and I have to note that the segregation of the genders ranks very high in that catagory. It's easy to just see what is right in front of our faces, right now in history, per what is socially acceptable, but it is likely that some-odd decades from now, there will be an argument like,

"I do XYZ because it is part of my religion."

"Well what about circumcision? THAT'S part of your religion too. Do you do that?"

"No, but that's different. Maybe they used to do that a long time ago, but it's not central to the religion. XYZ is."

Also--and Conker, I'm really not bashing on you AT ALL here, I'm happy that you're sharing your feelings on the subject, but I hope you don't mind me using you as an example--there is a bit of an "oh well" attitude in regards to circumcision represented in this thread that I feel one can equate to some of the female apathy we see in society over women having their bodies completely objectified, controlled by govornment, dictated by patriarchy, etc. Oh well, shrug, that's just the way that it is. What's the big deal? Nevermind that a physical part of one's BODY is being CUT OFF; the fact that it is so norm, and the fact that most circumcised men don't know what the other side of the fence is like anyhow, makes circumcision a large "non-issue" for most guys, which probably contributes to the lack of action being taken on the subject.

Even my own mate, who is usually very open minded, completely snapped at me when I asked him, "How do you feel about the fact that you were circumcised?"

"What's your DEAL with circumcision?! So what?! I don't even know what it feels like to have a foreskin, so who cares?"

No one is really OBLIGATED to care about such issues, and I do believe that there is an ocean of difference between negative action and a lack of positive action, but with such apathetic attitudes, how are issues related to body ever supposed to progress, be it circumcision or breast implants or choose-from-the-list-of-a-million?

[ 06-09-2006, 12:10 PM: Message edited by: RedGoddess ]

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LilBlueSmurf
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o well i had know idea being catholic had anything to do with it, i guess i just had it doen cause father did, but maybe im looking at it wrong but i just see it as one less step when putting a condom on.

I can't tell if you're joking here or not ... B/c, well, it's the internet ... BUT, if you REALLY think putting on a condom (with a foreskin) has too many steps to it, you REALLY need to not be having sex.

but with such apathetic attitudes, how are issues related to body ever supposed to progress, be it circumcision or breast implants or choose-from-the-list-of-a-million?

Excellent point. And i agree w/ you. Everyone has their issue(s) though. Not everything can matter to everyone. We just have to pick our issues, learn about them the best we can, and continue to educate/speak our minds. That is the best we can do.

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kluekozyte
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quote:
Originally posted by PenguinBoy:
Why does it exist in american historically? How far back does it go? I don't think it came from europe, cos we don't have circumcisions, apart from jews.

This is a very interesting and important question, and seeing as it hasn't been answered yet, I'll give it a shot.

I have read in many places that circumcision became common practice in America during the Victorian Era as a detterant to childhood masturbation.

quote:
Beginning around 1870, circumcision was viewed as a way to discourage masturbation. The idea was that the less sensation a boy had in his penis, the less inclined he would be to play with himself. John Harvey Kellogg, an influential American physician (and inventor of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes) led the ensuing movement in the 1880s to have baby boys routinely circumcised. Fanatically anti-masturbation, he also recommended that girls who masturbated have their clitorises burned with acid. - http://www.infocirc.org/vice.htm
(I am almost afraid to reproduce this, as it seems too shocking to be unexaggerated, but I have seen these facts in so many reputable places that I'm going to do it. If you find contradictory information, I'd be interested to know.)

As the anti-masturbation hysteria faded away (somewhat, ast least) with the times, other rationalizations were given, not maliciously, obviously, but because doctors honestly believed it was a good procedure. Some of the reasons given have been:
-easier hygiene (as an uncircumcised man, I feel it necessary to point out that washing is made no more difficult. In fact, it would be hard NOT to wash well)
-decreased risk of penile cancer, phimosis, cervical cancer, HIV transmission, and various other diseases and ailments. (I believe that some of these claims have been consistently backed up by new studies, but the gains are so infinitesimal in magnitude that they do not make much of an argument for circumcision on their own)

There are probably more historical "medical" reasons for cirumcision than I've listed here, but I believe that in recent times the procedure has persisted simply out of the pressure to conform with the majority, with the community, with the father.

I have been very impressed with the breadth of this discussion so far and am interested to see where it will go from here. It is a very important issue and it is always good to see that it is getting some attention from the public these days. Now if only the politicians would pay attention...

----
On a more personal note, I have noticed that a few circumcised males have left their opinions about themselves on this thread, but as far as I could tell no intact male had left a comment about his own feelings. So here goes: Ever since I discovered the mutilation I was spared (thank god) by my parents, despite the fact that my mother is Jewish, I have been grateful to her and my father for that decision every time I wash, change my clothes, masturbate, have sex...

In short, I believe that every aspect of my life that has to do with my penis is enhanced by the fact that it is the way it's supposed to be. I am so glad that I was not circumcised that I have spent a lot of time reading about the issue and discussing it with people whenever I can, to try to spread the word that it is a serious and irreversible decision that needs to be thought about carefully.

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joyfulgirl
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as a jew when i read post about how wrong circumsition is, it makes me feel threatened. which is weird because i do see why it might be good not to circumsize.

there are lots of rules and customs in judaism that come from a time when there was very bad sanitation and hygiene. the kosher rules came from that time because they were practical then. foreskins got cut because it was hard to clean under them and they got infected easily. there are lots of other little rules. let me know if i'm wrong about any of this.

the point is that the jewish people have always valued community. and when things are hard we stick together and value traditions. and sometimes those traditions stick around because they remind us of that sense of community.

i'm not saying that circumsition is ok because it invokes tradition and creats community. i'm pretty undecided after reading this thread. my point is that the laws of the torah were made at various times when they were necessary. alot of them no longer are, and thats where all of the great dicsussion comes in. like this one.

so, even if you're not talking about circumsition in the context of judaism, you're still carrying on one of the greatest jewish tradition of all: intelligent conversation about the world we live in.

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kluekozyte
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quote:
Intelligent conversation about the world we live in.
It makes me very happy to read responses like this.

My post above was speaking specifically about non-religious circumcision, where the argument is purely medical and ethical.

Once we begin talking about the practice as a religious ceremony (which by the way is part of many religions around the world, not just Judaism), it becomes a very different debate.

There is only one thing that disturbs me about Jewish circumcision, and this is that the procedure is sometimes done without the parents' thinking through all the issues surrounding the procedure and being fully educated as to its pros and cons. Of course, why would they need to even think about it? It's a given that Jewish boys will have a bris. However I think if parents blindly follow the tradition it is a bad thing. Traditions are wonderful things, but follow them with your eyes open.

-------
A fact that I've read about ancient Jewish circumcision that might be interesting to pass on:

Apparently the original procedure of circumcision, as practiced by the Ancient Hebrews was very different from the modern procedure. Originally, it involved only severing the very tip of the foreskin which extends beyond the glans. It was only later, during the Hellenistic period (circa 100s C.E.) that the modern operation, which involves tearing the foreskin away from the glans (to which it is fused in infants) was instituted.

Why did this change occur? Apparently many Jewish males had adopted the use of a device called the Pondus Judaeus, a small bronze weight which could be attached to the residual foreskin to stretch it back to its original size. Some Rabbis got upset about this behavior and ordered the entire foreskin to be removed, rendering this 'uncircumcision' impossible.

Now when I read this I found it hard to believe at first, that a tradition that Jews value so highly as central to their faith, could have changed so much from its original form, and that this is not common knowledge. I'm still a bit wary of this information, as it is from an anticircumcision website, although I have read it in several other places.

But I began to be more confident in this story when I thought about this: according to the Torah, Abraham circumcised himself as an adult. Due to the fact that the glans and prepuce are fused in the infant penis, circumcision does not require stiches. But in adult circumcision it does. It would have been very hard to circumcise the entire foreskin without stiching up the remaining skin in some way. This is total speculation, but I think it might have some truth to it.

I am not an expert on Judaism, circumcision or any of this, but I have read a lot and thought a lot about the topic. I am a non-practicing Jew, and I would be very interested if someone who knows more about the Jewish faith than I do responded to this post and let me know if they thought I was totally off the mark.

Again, joyful girl, I want to thank you for your post. It is indeed inspiring that it is possible for one person to have both an open mind and faith.

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lollipop89
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Hi there,

I would just like to throw in my two cents. For me – as with many other issues – the key point with circumcision is CHOICE! I find it crucial that it's completely up to the parents to make the decision as to whether or not circumcision is right for their son, whatever they decide. As long as their decision is informed, I don't think that anyone else should be able to make that choice for them.

As far as nonreligious circumcisions go, one good site I found outlining the risks vs benefits is the Mayo Clinic site. I would be wary of the amateur sites that have an agenda (both pro and con), as their info is much more likely to be biased. As you can see, much of the research seems to be inconclusive in making a case either for or against circumcision.

Before I go any further, I should probably mention that I AM Jewish, and plan to one day circumcise my sons, should I have any. While I understand that this blind following may be difficult to understand, I can't even imagine doing any differently. Circumcision is the physical representation of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, and is the most widely observed Jewish law. It is also an important life cycle event, bringing together entire communities.

As with almost all religious traditions and laws (Jewish, Christian, and otherwise), the specifics of ritualistic circumcision has changed over time, yet it still remains an integral way for a Jew to express their religion. Nonetheless, I certainly respect anyone who opts out, as their religious opinions are only theirs to form.

It's hard for me to even begin to delve into the discussion of nonreligious circumcisions, as that's just not my situation. However, I can't help but take some offense at circumcision being called "wrong", when it's such a crucial part of my faith. While I don't want to rainbow and bunnies what's clearly a very controversial issue, I think that it's important for people on both sides of the aisle to respect what other individuals decide to do for their children, and be free to make decisions about their own kids.

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kluekozyte
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lollipop: I agree with almost everything you've said, and I'm sure I would be offended as well if someone called a basic tenet of faith flat out wrong. But I do think that almost all of the posters on this thread have specifically been talking about non-religious circumcision.

I would never try to impose my own beliefs on someone else's religion. For one thing, as a non-practicing Jew I don't think I could ever truly understand the significance of such rituals. So I'm not (and I don't think any one else should either) going to tell you it is wrong for you to circumcise, absolutely not.

There is only one thing you say that I sort of object to. You speak about the rights of parents to do what they want with their children. This is purely an ethical objection, feel free to disagree with me on this, but I believe more in the rights of the individual. There are few individuals more helpless than infants. If their parents are planning to make a decision that will affect their child for the rest of his life, especially if they are doing it without all of the facts, I feel a moral obligation to step in and try to protect the child.

CHOICE is a very good thing, and perhaps the most basic right of members of a society. The question is, whose CHOICE is it? The parents' or the child's. Since it will affect the child much more significantly than the parent, I would say that the CHOICE should belong to the child (however impractical this might seem).

We certainly do protect children from their parents for certain procedures, FGM (I'm not saying it is equivalent), neglect, any kind of abuse, etc.

These examples probably all have more potential for lasting damage to the child than circumcision, but circumcision has serious risks and ethical issues as well, in my opinion, and I would feel, if I were deciding for my own child, that it would be breaking the trust that a child has in their parents to protect them from harm.

[ 06-25-2006, 09:03 AM: Message edited by: kluekozyte ]

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