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All this talk about a circumcision ban makes me a bit snippy

by dan pine

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So a few weeks ago I’m sitting in the j. newsroom minding my own business, when all of a sudden the Internet is  aflame with news of a proposed circumcision ban in San Francisco.

The proponents want to punish anyone –– doctors, mohels, parents –– who circumcises or allows to be circumcised a male under the age of 18, with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

dan pineI can just imagine that cellblock conversation:

Scary Tattooed Axe Murderer: “So whaddaya in for?”

Mohel: “I, um, removed a baby’s foreskin in San Francisco.”

Axe Murderer (frightened look in his eye): “Just stay away from me, man. I don’t want any trouble.”

Actually, this is serious business to “intactivists” (as the anti-circumcision people call themselves). And it would be just as serious to the Jewish community, should the proposed ban make it to the ballot next year or, God forbid, pass. Which it won’t.

Last week I wrote j.’s story about the ban. In the process I interviewed Tina Kimmel, an Oakland intactivist. She is a cheery, intelligent Jewish woman whom I liked very much.

But assuming she is typical of anti-circumcision ground troops, one of her assertions baffled me. Tina said she and her colleagues had come to know men whose sex lives had been ruined because of circumcision; that their loss of sexual feeling was profound.

How would a guy know this? He would first have to have been a sexually active uncircumcised adult, then circumcised for some reason, then sexually active again (and presumably very disappointed).

I’d calculate the number of candidates who fit that description to be: zero.

Besides, really, just how much more are men supposed to like sex? I have never in my 55 years met anyone who said to me, “Making love is OK, but it would be so much better if I had a foreskin.”

I have never met anyone who remembers his bris. I have never met anyone who feels sexually ruined for having had a bris. From whom are these intactivists getting their horror stories?

And as for the “no religious exemption” clause of the proposed ban, all I can say is wow. Just wow.

For thousands of years, brit milah has been at the core of Judaism and the Jewish people. After Abraham undertook the first snip, we have since bequeathed to the world the Torah, the Talmud and the mother religion of most people on the planet.

We have produced a ridiculous number of Nobel Prize winners, musicians, doctors, thinkers and builders. We have given the world Sandy Koufax and Jerry Seinfeld.

If those are the victims of circumcision, I want another.

Here’s the main thing that appalls me about this whole silly deal: I am no libertarian, but I resent it when people try to legislate morality. I hate it when the homophobic, First Amendment-hating Christian conservative crowd tries to do it, and I resent it when intactivists do it, too.

Honestly, if we’re going to ban circumcision to protect children, let’s also ban high school football, skateboards, McDonalds (the food; not just the Happy Meal toys), divorce, television, cell phones and Justin Bieber.

And it’s obvious to 99 percent of humanity that circumcision is nowhere near as bad as Justin Bieber.

There are out there in the big bad world serious threats to our lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness. We of course want to spare our children as much harm and hurt as we can. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes they get leukemia. Sometimes they fall out of skyboxes at NBA games.

Life can be scary and dangerous. It can also be the blessing of blessings, and Jews know that. I have no doubt about our commitment to our kids and their welfare. Is circumcision a holdover from an ancient desert civilization? Yes. Is it medically necessary? Probably not.

But the hysterics in the anti-circumcision crowd still miss the point. Loving Jewish parents have always, and will always, circumcise their boys, and no municipal ban will stop it.

For us, a people 3,000 years in the making, holdovers mean a lot.


Dan Pine
can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Comments

Posted by tommy124
12/02/2010  at  05:45 PM
beg to differ

A search engine like Google turns up 40 pages, when you type in ‘foreskin restoration’.  Dan, there are plenty of people who are dissatisfied with their circumcisions.  You discounted the opinion of the Jewish intactivist, but what if she knows whereof she speaks?
Having half the skin of your penis removed, along with 2/3 of the nerves, cannot be compared with leukemia.  One is ritually done to others, the other is a disease with an unknown cause.
If it is wrong in the US to surgically alter the genitals of a female baby, it is also legally wrong to surgically alter the genitals of a male baby.
The vast majority of Russian Jews manage to keep their foreskins, and remain Jewish.
Many parents choose brit shalom.  Ya’acov Malkin, the academic director of the College of Judaism as Culture in Israel, who circumcised his own son 50 years before “because of habit, because it was a custom, it is a custom of the Jews”, says of circumcision: “I don’t regard it as a religious act at all… if it’s medically not necessary, it’s not necessary.”

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Posted by George
12/03/2010  at  06:46 AM
Re: beg to differ

I googled the phrase “foreskin restoration” and I got 48,500 results. I don’t know why Tommy124 reported only 40 pages.

BTW, foreskin restoration is of great antiquity. It was practiced by Jews in ancient times who wished to appear as Greeks.

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Posted by lucid
12/02/2010  at  06:02 PM
wow

How does any female devine whether foreskinless men derive more pleasure than their uncircumcized brethern indeed!

A ban on smoking. OK. Promotes health.

A ban on circumcision produces the opposite result—more disease.

So for the good of humanity, let’s uphold the ancient commandment and laugh those who would undercut it out of the room.

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Posted by tommy124
12/03/2010  at  01:30 PM
a little medical proof, please

A ban on circumcision produces more disease?
Are the Europeans less healthy?  A larger percentage of Americans are circumcised, and yet somehow their rate of HIV/AIDS infection is significantly higher.  There is no disease which circumcision prevents.  Even the Israeli medical society does not believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.
You may be laughing, but it is an unjustified sneer.
In the words of Moses Maimonides, “The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscience and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened.”

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Posted by Restoring Tally
12/02/2010  at  07:59 PM
My loss of sexual feeling was profound

Dan, I, too, am 55. When I reached my 40s I noticed a decrease in sexual pleasure. When I hit 50, I had very little sexual pleasure. I started restoring my foreskin at 52. I have regained all my lost sensitivity and I also have the gliding action, which I never knew existed before I started restoring. I have much more sexual pleasure than I ever remember having before. I do not like that I spent the majority of my life missing out on something that was taken from me without my consent. I do not feel that circumcision has any religious meaning because I did not choose to be circumcised, it was something that was done to me.

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Posted by Nybili
12/03/2010  at  05:22 AM
Circumcision is the right decision

Dan,
Excellent article.  You are one of the first people to actually bring out the intactivist agenda. Their agenda is to get infant circumcision and if they could adult circumcision banned in any way shape or form. What is also ironic is that a majority of the anti circ organizations are headed by women who have no penis but are more than willing to dictate what you can do with yours. 

I am one of those candidates who fit that nearly zero percent category.  I was circumcised as an adult at the age of 59.  It is the best decision that I ever made.  I have more comfort not only daily but also during sex.  It feels way better and there is no loss of sensitivity.  I would never want to go back to being uncircumcised.  The reason they want infant circumcision banned is because it is way more difficult to get circumcised as an adult and only a few sites that will give you the proper information on how to do it.  I am one of over 2000 members of such a group.  Most of us circumcised as adults.  Our only regret is that we werent circumcised earlier in life either at birth or at least in our teen years.  Circlist has all the info and links.

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Posted by tommy124
12/03/2010  at  01:35 PM
deny choice?

So, Nybili, you wish to deny others the choice of whether or not to be circumcised, which you enjoyed yourself?
Have you mentioned that Circlist is an organization for people who have a sexual fetish for circumcision?
Isn’t it the owner of the penis who should decide which parts to keep, and which parts to have surgically removed?
Removing healthy body parts from someone else has no justification, medically or ethically.
Should we allow Islamic peoples to circumcise their girls in the US?

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Posted by George
12/03/2010  at  06:02 AM
The Right to Bodily Integrity

Dan:

Baby boys are human beings. Like other human beings, they have a legal right to their bodily integrity.*

A ban on male neonatal circumcision, which is a non-therapeutic medically-unnecessary surgical amputation, would provide the protection to their right of bodily integrity that is sorely lacking today.

A ban on infant circumcision would not prohibit an adult from seeking a circumcision, if that is his desire.

(BTW, Canadian Justin Bieber has been reported to be intact, as is the usual practice in Canada.)

*The right to bodily integrity has been an essential part of the Anglo-American common law for centuries. It was recognized by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Union Pacific Railway Company v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250 (1891).

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Posted by Bill56
12/03/2010  at  06:17 AM
I have to laugh everytime

I have to laugh everytime I hear these negative misinformed comments by people restoring their foreskin.  There are so many studies out there that prove it doesn’t work the way some people say.  It causes more harm than good.  And the fact that a baby feels pain when being circumcised, what a bit of misinformation that is.  And those who tell the stories that they felt the whole procedure as an infant, what an imagination.  Reading too many fiction stories.  I was circumcised as an adult and knew from the time I was 8 years old I wanted rid of that smelly, problem causing foreskin.  When I got the terrible itch I couldn’t scratch under the foreskin in the classroom at the blackboard, imagine my embarassing situation.  The best thing to happen to me was getting circumcised and I will never regret it. Because of my excellent experience I and others have the site http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Inter-Circ  Over 2400 members, male and female, gay and straight belong to the group and the stories are not like the horror stories you read posted by the foreskin lover’s sites.

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Posted by TLCTugger
12/03/2010  at  08:37 AM
^^ many studies out there

^^ many studies out there that prove it doesn’t work ^^

Bold lies, sir.  No research ever showed that foreskin restoration doesn’t work.  It works. 

Many men have graciously shared their restoration photo progress diaries online to help others guage their progress. 

When an adult wishes to amputate a healthy normal body part that’s called Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder.  When a victim of infant circumcision restores his foreskin it’s called healing.

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Posted by tommy124
12/03/2010  at  01:42 PM
I have to laugh

I have to laugh at the people who think that surgery is the answer.  Did you lose your washcloth, and have your water shut off, so that surgery was required?  When the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years, they were uncircumcised, and it wasn’t a problem for them.
I am glad that circumcision has supplied so much pleasure for you, that it makes up for the 20,000 nerves you lost in the surgery.
As far as circumcision causing pain, for you, of course not.  You were administered anesthesia.
Only 14% of the babies circumcised in the US receive proper anesthesia.  For them, it is agony.  I witnessed a circumcision in a hospital when my son was born, accidentally.  That child’s blood curdling screams will be with me until I die.  At birth, the head and foreskin are fused.  The medical term for separating them is “blunt trauma”.
You are a true humanitarian.  Not!
Should we legalize removing the clitoral foreskin for girls, to make things legally equivalent?

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Posted by malpaschick
12/03/2010  at  06:47 AM
malpaschick

dear dan,
    My husband was circumcised at birth,he has no problem in functioning sexually i assure you.Your brilliant article states it as it really is.How would one know if the cannot function properly ,when circ’d at birth or as a young child.Plus not enough emphasis is given ion the risk of cervical cancer in women with uncirc’d partners.Plus children having to be done when older due to UTI’S,Phimosis or balanitis.Yours,Suzanne.

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Posted by tommy124
12/03/2010  at  01:48 PM
how tightly we hold to myth

If one does not know whether or not surgery provides a benefit, why would someone go through with the risk of a surgery?
If we were talking about an eye, you would say, “No way.  It’s unproven”, but you have two of those.  I ask you, Suzanne, has your clitoral foreskin ever caused you any medical problem?  Do European women suffer from higher disease rates?  No.  Do their men?  No.  Cervical cancer is caused by HPV virus, which is not prevented by circumcision, and by smoking.
The fact that your husband has no problem is to be applauded, and enjoyed.  That is not true for people who have circumcision-induced problems, such as hidden penis, meatal stenosis, painful erections, and skin bridges.
Your contempt for men with foreskins, who constitute 7 out of 8 men on the planet, is thinly disguised.

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Posted by TLCTugger
12/03/2010  at  08:26 AM
Adult Choices

About 2 in 1000 intact men choose foreskin amputation for themselves.  Hundreds of thousands of men are enduring a tedious multi-year process of painless non-surgical foreskin restoration.  It works very well to improve sensation, function, and normal appearance.

But what adults may choose, whether it’s breast reduction, tattoos, or tongue piercings, has NO bearing on how we treat infants.  They have the right to make their own choices as rational informed adults.  Cutting at birth steals that right. 

NOT ONE national medical association on earth (not even Israel’s) endorses routine circumcision.  The most recently revised policies (Australia’s and Holland’s) reflect all the latest research on STIs and they strongly condemn circumcising.  (Just Google “circumcision damage” to understand why).

A circumcision ban that had a religious exemption could never pass constitutional muster.  We can’t FAIL to protect a baby from senseless amputations just based his parents’ faith.  Our US female genital cutting ban has no religious exemption. 

Foreskin - even restored foreskin - feels REALLY good.  HIS body, HIS decision.

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Posted by George
12/04/2010  at  05:47 AM
Words have meanings!

TLC Tugger has identified male neonatal circumcision as “routine”. It is NOT routine. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists identified as “elective” more than twenty years ago.

Male neonatal circumcision ceased to be routine when courts started to require “informed consent” for surgical operations in the 1960s

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Posted by Pebble
12/03/2010  at  09:07 AM
RIC

Seems to me that the lad should have the choice.  After all, it’s his foreskin.  Ones religion should be between his ears, not his legs.

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Posted by Hugh7
12/03/2010  at  02:00 PM
Great quote!

“One’s religion should be between his ears, not his legs.”
Great quote! Thanks, Pebble! It’s added to http://www.circumctitions.com/Quotations.html#pebble

Dan will find plenty of the men he’s never met at http://www.circumstitions.com/Resent.html

His cellblock conversation could happen today if the baby in question had been a girl: half of all babies are already protected from circumcision (not just the horrors of Africa, but the merest pinprick, as the AAP was reminded earlier this year when it proposed legitimating just that). This proposal just closes that anomaly.

@Suzanne: “My husband ... has no problem in functioning sexually”. “No problems”? “fuctioning sexually”?  What a low threshhold! Where’s the transcendental ecstasy of not just the arrival, but the journey? (See http://www.circumstitions.com/Horseheaven.html for an example.) Truly, statements like these don’t uphold circumcision, they condemmn it. As she almost says, “How would one know…” what one is missing?

The cervical cancer myth has been refuted. The lower rate in Jewish women proved to be genetic. And the other complaints she mentions can be treated like any others as they (rarely) arise, non-surgically or by other surgery, or by circumcision as a last resort.

Visit the site Bill56 recommends: it used to be called Circlist, and it’s a gathering place for circum-fetishists (or as they call themselves, “circumsexuals”), men (very few women) who get off sexually on the idea of circumcising and being circumcised. This is the dark underbelly of some peoople’s desperate need to perpetuate circumcision.

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Posted by Hugh7
12/03/2010  at  02:07 PM
Erratum

The quotation is added to http://www.circumstitions.com/Quotations.html#pebble

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Posted by George
12/03/2010  at  09:47 AM
Defending the Culture of Origin

Psychologist Ronald Goldman, Ph.D. has shown that one tends to defend one’s culture of origin.

Non-therapeutic circumcision of infant boys (amputation of the foreskin) is a long standing part of Jewish culture, so it is quite natural for Dan to feel a need to defend circumcision.

Goldman also has shown that circumcised men have a need to justify their loss of so much sexual skin. This can be done by minimizing the loss or by defending circumcision by alleging some medical or prophylactic benefit.

Dan needs to recognize these feelings in himself, because only then can he look at circumcision objectively, instead of subjectively.

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Posted by Bryce
12/03/2010  at  04:06 PM
It's Called Evolution

Sex with a foreskin IS better because that’s the way we EVOLVED.  Sure it usually works ok without it, but the fact that 80% of men worldwide with foreskins aren’t willingly giving them up has gotta tell you something.

Cutting a baby’s genitals is twisted.  If it was done to you, it’s a hard thing to accept and come to terms with.  Yeah, you’re fine, but you aren’t the way you were born - your dick is scarred and you’re missing the best part.  Can’t deny that.

Joke: Why do boys play with their foreskins?  Because it’s there.  Why do cut boys play with their penis?  Because it’s all they have left.

Jews and middle/upper class white parents need to wake up and leave their boys’ dicks alone.  With circ rates dropping fast, there’s a good chance your kid will NOT be ok with you sacrificing his foreskin because every one else was doing it.

http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/jewish-fathers-letter-to-his-son.html

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Posted by Joseph4GI
12/03/2010  at  07:26 PM
About those "assumptions..."

“But assuming she is typical of anti-circumcision ground troops, one of her assertions baffled me. Tina said she and her colleagues had come to know men whose sex lives had been ruined because of circumcision; that their loss of sexual feeling was profound.

How would a guy know this? He would first have to have been a sexually active uncircumcised adult, then circumcised for some reason, then sexually active again (and presumably very disappointed).

“I’d calculate the number of candidates who fit that description to be: zero.”

But let’s take a look at these same exact statements in regards to female circumcision. A lot of people who defend male circumcision love to say over and over that female circumcision is just so much worse, that it is “detrimental to a woman’s sexuality.” To which I would ask the exact same questions as above; what exactly are these people’s basis for comparison?

“How would a guy/girl know this? S/he would first have to have been a sexually active intact adult, then circumcised for some reason, then sexually active again (and presumably very disappointed).

I’d calculate the number of candidates who fit that description to be: zero.”

Well?

Incidentally, there are actually varying degrees of female circumcision, and “studies show” that even a woman who has undergone the WORST kind is still able to orgasm.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00620.x/abstract

And this *clearly* unbiased study tells us that female circumcision (nicely coined “labiaplasty” here) can actually IMPROVE sexuality for both partners!

http://www.labiaplastysurgeon.com/labiaplasty-clinical-study.html

So where are these people getting their claims from?

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Posted by Joseph4GI
12/03/2010  at  07:39 PM
About that disdain for legislating morality...

“Here’s the main thing that appalls me about this whole silly deal: I am no libertarian, but I resent it when people try to legislate morality. I hate it when the homophobic, First Amendment-hating Christian conservative crowd tries to do it, and I resent it when intactivists do it, too.”

So!

What do you think about the fact that there is a FEDERAL BAN on female circumcision?

The ban condemns ALL forms of female genital cutting, and there is absolutely no “religious” exemption.

Some people are quick to try and build the wall between male circumcision by stating how much more “worse” it is. But isn’t that just “opinion,” and isn’t the ban “opinion” and “morals” legislated?”

In actuality, if people actually cared to look, they would realize that not all female circumcision is as bad as described by male circumcision advocates. Female circumcision is often described as “the excision of the clitoris and the labia, and the sowing up of the area to leave a small hole, performed by amateurs in the bush with glass shards.” But did you know that this only comprises of 15% of female circumcision globally? In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is customary to circumcise baby girls. In fact, people talk about circumcising their baby girls on Malaysian/Indonesian parenting forums as non-challantly as when Americans talk about circumcising their sons. According to accounts on those forums, female circumcision is actually less severe than male circumcision. Take a look:

http://www.mummysg.com/forums/f40/have-you-sunat-your-girls-29826/

A good article for readers to look into is “A Cutting Tradition” put out by the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/magazine/20circumcision-t.html

“But the hysterics in the anti-circumcision crowd still miss the point. Loving Jewish parents have always, and will always, circumcise their boys, and no municipal ban will stop it.”

But parents from Malaysia, Indonesia and Sudan simply aren’t loving, we think that, and that alone justifies a ban on female circumcision with no religious exemption right?

So please answer the question; if a ban on male circumcision is an “infringement on religious freedom and/or religious rights,” why aren’t Jewish group sat the front of the line trying to lift the ban on female circumcision, if at least for “religious” purposes? Maybe it wouldn’t be the BEST solution to this problem, but at least it would be “consistent” with “religious freedom” and “parental choice.”

How far do you care about “religious freedom” and “parental choice” REALLY?

“For us, a people 3,000 years in the making, holdovers mean a lot.”

Sometimes it’s time for “long-standing traditions” to end. This is why bullock sacrifices, stoning gays and prostitutes to death and selling your daughter into slavery is no longer practiced.

Don’t you think it’s time for Jews to start thinking about replacing circumcision with something less drastic? I mean, at least leave it up to the individual to decide?

Just so you know, there is a growing number of Jews who are skipping out on circumcision, and opting for the bloodless “Bris Shalom” naming ceremony as well. There are groups in ISRAEL of all places. Maybe it’s time this tradition too was done away with?

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Posted by tommy124
12/05/2010  at  09:23 AM
circumcision is not done out of love

It is not love, which compels us to commit a violent act against a defenseless child.  If it isn’t a wounding, why does it leave a scar?  Love accepts others as they are, it does not seek to change them by force.  Taking a knife to someone who needs our protection to live, just does not seem to be the right thing to do.  Are we not created perfect?

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Posted by Hugh7
12/05/2010  at  05:39 PM
No, we're not, but....

No, we’re not created perfect (some less so than others), but the foreskin is not part of that imperfection, not a birth defect, and if it were to the slightest degree disadvantageous, males born without it, as some are, would have become the norm billennia ago.

But I couldn’t agree more with tommy124’s high sentiments about love accepting others as they are.

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Posted by Gentile
12/08/2010  at  10:41 PM
My Choice

I read with interest your article on Circumcision!
I, as my name indicates am Gentile. I was born at home with a midwife, no doctor present, thus I was not circumcised. I had sex before, and after my circumcision, and frankly I saw no difference. I had it done at age 21, to be honest because it caused me problems.. only sorry it was not done early on
as it is painful, but happy I did it. It is scary that others want to dictate what should and should not be done to others.

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Posted by Hugh7
12/12/2010  at  09:02 PM
Scary indeed - that's why it should be stopped

“It is scary that others want to dictate what should and should not be done to others.”

Well that is what happens every time parents have a baby boy circumcised.

This Bill would give all boys the choice Gentile was able to make.

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