Jan 27, 2008

Circumcision and Valentine's Day. Far be it from me...

...to counter the Advice Goddess. I mean, she's got it goin' on, right? She's got the hair, the 'tude, the hot links from Insty. And most of the time, I'm down with her rap, man.

But, circumcision, dude? I really should step aside. Angels fear to tread, and all that. If my son is reading this, please, Heather, send him out of the room. I mean it!

To call it, "penisectomy" as Ms. Alkon does, is a bit much. And incorrect. Even the Jolly Roger agrees with me on that point. That's just emotional and over-the-top drama. To call it purely cosmetic is possibly understating, as well. But there is simply no correlation between circumcision and a clitorodotomy procedure. To assert such is to unwittingly abet those who would impose female genital mutilation, which I'm sure is not Ms. Alkon's intent. [update: for excellent articles and discussion of FGM, click here.]

Let's call things by what they mean. It's ever so helpful. A penisectomy would infer the removal of the penis. No normal person would want that. Nor would a normal person insist on removing a woman's sexual sensitivity. An insecure person might, but... enough about Muslim men.

I'm not sure why it's important to Ms. Alkon to make such an irrational comparison. There's a bunch more to discuss about it. Lots and lots of levels of thought. Let's tackle just one.

To assume that one backward and barbaric culture's insecurities are the reason behind a vibrant and progressive culture's continuance of a shared custom deserves a bit of pondering.

Me, I'm just thinking out loud, and not buying into the "health benefits" argument as the only spiritual vs. visceral correlation of reason for circumcision. To do so is to assume quite a bit. Let's assume, along the lines of, "pork was forbidden by God because Moses was a genius who figured out that undercooked pork was a danger." From there, a generally touted "modern" explanation for a seemingly irrational demand, we jump to: circumcision was instituted for health reasons.

But, you don't know that. And neither do I.

And, as any woman who lives with a "cut" man can tell you, circumcision doesn't seem to slow the old boy down one bit. In fact, to be totally scientific, someone would have to sponsor a study comparing the libidos of uncut and cut men, and record the resulting amount of pleasure and satisfaction for each. Many a "cut" man would volunteer to participate in such a study, I'm sure.

"But! You don't know what you don't experience!!" Well, I can't speak to that, for sure. But I can say this:

Alcohol has done more to defeat a man's pleasure than any circumcision.

No lesser a mortal than Wm. Shakespeare confirms this in stating that alcohol, “provokes the desire but it takes away the performance.” Alcohol interferes in two ways, by keeping the blood vessels open and relaxed, and by inhibiting the nerve-endings. Of both sexes.

Some say that a "sheath-ectomy" exposes nerve endings so as to keep a man in a perpetual state of excitement. Anecdotal testimony may bear that out. ::ahem!:: You know, there may be a "go forth and multiply" factor in the ancient mindset that provoked men to keep the arousal factor up, so to speak, in order to assure a survival of his species. It may not be health, it may not be cosmetic. It may be tribal and primordial, an ancient wisdom or ploy of survival.

Strictly speaking outside of the spiritual reference: It was instituted by men, after all. Not by women. My suspicions lead me to conclude that men know what they are doing for their sons. Cut or uncut. One thing they are not doing is acting on irrational insecurities. They're all about the happy penis.

Nothing is more sacred to a man than his penis. It's his best friend. Tell me I'm wrong, guys.

But no, we got men worrying now, like women, about what they may be missing out on; fretting about the amount of enjoyment they may not be experiencing. Heck. Cut guys may be having more fun, but nobody can measure that, can they? And if it's the opposite? If it takes a guy a bit longer to arrive at his happy moment because of over-exposure, then who benefits most from that?

Maybe circumcision is a pro-feminist agenda.

Oh, and Valentine's Day?

It has nothing to do with the above, (or maybe it does...) it just happens to be another peeve that Ms. Alkon and countless others feel the need to grind up and serve to the blogosphere.

Well, you know what? TOO BAD!! Valentine's Day is not for you, just like Yom Kippur is not for me. It's a day for those who find meaning in it. Insecure people that want to be harried by it? Fine. Ignore it.

But there are millions of romantics who find meaning in the day. So the yammering and sour grapes about Valentine's Day are just that. Bah Humbug!

For the rest of ya'll, you got about two weeks to make your plans for your sweet thing and you to celebrate what you've found.

Everyone else can just bugger off. Or go get your genitals pierced.


Mark said...

As one who bears the sign of the Covenant, I can aassure you it hasn't slowed me down one bit.

Jack said...

Cut guys may be having more fun

Without a doubt. Who wants to be a turtle anyway.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Ah, Mark! No one could accuse you...

Suffice it to say, your blog speaks for you!

Now, Jack. I tried to avoid euphamisms! LOL!

Erica said...

If I may insert, so to speak, my humble opinion. As one who is as pure as the driven snow, but has seen a photo or two of the proverbial uncut piggie still wrapped in its blanket...I just think the Mosaic Snip looks nicer. Withholding comment with regards to taste, texture and smell.

ML said...

There's already been a study like the one you were talking about.

From the March 2007 issue of BJU International on "The Effect Of Male Circumcision On Sexuality":

"About 6% answered that their sex lives improved, while 20% reported a worse sex life after circumcision.

This study suggests that adult circumcision adversely affects sexual function in a significant number of men, and the authors suggest that it may be due to loss of nerve endings in the removed skin. In addition, there was an approximately 9% incidence of severe penile scarring or uncomfortable erections from curvature or tethering after circumcision."


Women are generally the ones promoting female circumcision btw. Does that mean they know what they're doing for their daughters? Removing the clitoris is definitely worse than male circumcision, but in some countries female circumcision only involves removing the labia, which does less damage than male circumcision, or they just remove the clitoral hood, which is the exact equivalent.

In the countries which cut girls, they also say it "looks nicer". Hardly a good reason to cut off part of someone else's penis. Not just any old piece either, but the most sensitive part. That's right - it's not just there to protect the glans.

Mark said...

"This study suggests that adult circumcision adversely affects sexual function in a significant number of men, and the authors suggest that it may be due to loss of nerve endings in the removed skin. In addition, there was an approximately 9% incidence of severe penile scarring or uncomfortable erections from curvature or tethering after circumcision."

I thought we were talking about circumcision soon after birth.

I can honestly say I do not understand having the procedure done in adulthood. The very thought gives me the willys...

Joan of Argghh! said...

ML, welcome! And your comments are welcome, too. They are the reasonable and attentive to detail. Moreso than my rambling take on it.

Like Mark, I can't imagine a man submitting to such a procedure.

Your last paragraph states that the "most sensitive" part is cut away. Are there, indeed, more nerve endings in the foreskin than in the head of the penis?

As to why women would want their daughter's sexual sensitivity completely excised, I can only say that a woman's historical acquiescence to men's proclamations is well-documented.

Interestingly enough, of all the human and pedestrian things remarked on in the Bible, the only person to ever complain about a circumcision of a baby boy was a woman, who called her husband a "bloody man". She thought it barbaric, too.

But, after 10,000 years we still don't see much call for an end to it from the folks who started it. I'd venture to say that as a people, the Jews have distinguished themselves intellectually and progressively, far from the idiocy and backwardness of other ancient peoples.

It's definitely a crusade for some. But anecdotal evidence that grown men who were circumcised at birth are somehow missing out is pretty weak in comparison to the weight of the spiritual and psychological implications of the ritual.

Which reasons I haven't even brought in, in order to get away from equating circumcision to penis-ectomy.

The Sunnite teachings are cited for the case for female circumcision, but even Koran scholars have to admit that circumcision is not mentioned once in the holy writ of Islam, only in the later teachings of the imams...and possibly very dubious in its intent:

From Answers.com: Female circumcision includes a wide range of procedures. The simplest form involves a small cut to the clitoris or labial tissue. A Sunna circumcision removes the prepuce (a fold of skin that covers the clitoris) and/or the tip of the clitoris. A clitoridectomy removes the entire clitoris and some or all of the surrounding tissue; this procedure occurs in approximately 80% of cases. The most extreme form of genital mutilation is excision and infibulation, in which the clitoris and all of the surrounding tissue are cut away and the remaining skin is sewn together. Only a small opening is left for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. Infibulation accounts for approximately 15% of FGM procedures."

It's almost maniacal, the extremes to which men have mandated what women do to themselves for the pleasure and approval of men. And poor women go along because of their subservient and insecure status, cowed by fear. You'd better believe they make their daughters do it.

The God of the Jews never mandated such a practice for females, and many Islamic men are saying that they shouldn't have to be cut, because the Koran does not call for either practice.

It seems unique to the Jews. If it holds no spiritual or cosmetic appeal to others, why submit to it? But if no over-arching pathology or harm comes of circumcision, why persecute those who practice it?

It's not like they're piercing their baby daughter's ears and dressing them like whores and over sexualizing them at a young age. Now there's some pathological harm being done on the other end of the spectrum.

Hugh said...

Joan: "It seems unique to the Jews."
On the contrary, Muslims, US Americans, South Koreans, Philippinos, tribal Africans, Eastern Polynesians and Australian aboriginals do it. Most of the English-speaking world used to do it, and gave it up without ill-effects.

"If it holds no spiritual or cosmetic appeal to others, why submit to it?" Good question, and then the person "submitting to it" has to give informed consent. It has no "spiritual or cosmetic appeal" to newborns.

"But if no over-arching pathology or harm comes of circumcision,..." Those are both big ifs. Circumcision is not without risks, up to and including death, even when "properly performed", and the minor harms are much commoner than supposed, because circumcision is falsely believed to make a penis "maintenance-free".

"...why persecute those who practice it?" Why indeed, but children have human rights, to security of their person and their property. (A foreskin is certainly property when it is sold to make cosmetics.)

Mark: "it hasn't slowed me down one bit". But there's more to the journey than its speed. With its ~20,000 specialised nerves, the foreskin beneficially affects the quality of the, um, ride.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I know that there are Muslims throughout the world, just as there are Jews, so it would follow that many peoples submit to it. But how many religions?

At any rate, children can't give an informed consent about being born to idiots, incompetents, abusers, the poor or disadvantaged. But they are born, nonetheless, every day. I'd say the long run of circumcision's practice has an enviable rate of non-harm and other aesthetic realities that make for good discussion.

To continue to pull it down into "harm" along the lines of cruelty is a bit much, and even if conceded, won't win the desired results.

nonny said...

If god did not want you to have it she would not have given it to you, so justifying it by God is out. As for health reasons, unless there is a legitimate medical reason, leave it alone. Whether it is male or female circumcision, it is wrong, it is morally wrong to interfere with any child’s genitals regardless of tradition, culture, what daddy wants etc. You may well be the parent but that does not give you the right to cut of your son’s foreskin. After all it is his not yours. Newbie is Jewish (not practising), my first ‘cut’ man and it is odd. I have however made it perfectly clear, any interfering with possible future son’s ding-a-lings and I will have no qualms about cutting all of Daddy’s off. When he is asleep off course, I am a sucker for the shock factor!!

Velociman said...

Amy doesn't have it ALL going on. She's never had a Velocifacial, for example.

Mark said...

"If god did not want you to have it she would not have given it to you, so justifying it by God is out."

In my case, a nun asked my (then still) Mormon mother if my Jewish father might want me to have a circumcision in St. Mary's Desert Hospital.

Thank God Mom said yes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Well said, Joan!
I concur, Mark. Sound to me like just another "study" with an agenda.

The point of Joan's post is that circumcision does not, in any sense, equal the barbaric act of female clitorectomy.

But that's just my two cents.

ML said...

Sure clitoridectomy is worse than male circumcision, but how about removing a girl's labia, or clitoral hood, which are also common forms of female circumcision? Why are they banned, yet somehow it's ok to cut off the most sensitive part of a baby boy's penis?

Cutting parts of other people's genitals off has to be wrong, whatever sex they are.

If my son wants to be circumcised when he's 18, I'll pay for it and make sure he gets the best surgeon in town, but until then, it's his body. Not mine, not his mother's, but his.

It's also safer and less painful if you wait btw. Read up on the babies that have died or suffered amputations because of the "simple snip". I know it's rare, but probably not as rare as you'd think.

Joan of Argghh! said...

ML, from the information I cited above "normal" female circumcision composes only about 5% of all forms of FGM. 80% is downright misogynistic and 15% is torture of a sort I can't imagine, a living chastity belt.

FGM seems to be a secular perversion of a spiritual rite, conveniently having only one purpose, pernicious at its very heart, and found only in personal scribblings by certain Imams; not even prescribed by The Prophet.

Your decisions about your children are reasonable, and I applaud them.

That others decide something else for their children that cannot be proven with any sort of significant statistics to be harmful, should not make it the subject of vilification. Nor should it make it part of a discussion about FGM.

I maintain that the two practices are not even comparable in custom, ideology, or spiritual underpinnings.

The heart of the one practice is a sign of tribe and consecration that hasn't over the millennia produced provable outrageous effects on quality of life.

FGM, at its heart and in practice, is a male dominance issue born of insecurity and the need for control of one's chattel. It does not bear up under the comparisons. It has no "outward" identification of tribe or consecration such a male circumcision provides, so even on the spiritual scale, it is found wanting. To use it as an argument against male circumcision is a weakness that too many employ.

And arguing against male circumcision to achieve the end of FGM will afford nothing to either position. I'm not saying this about you or your reasons, just stating why the whole thing falls apart if approached in the way that many are attempting.

nonny said...

I definitly think female circumcision is worse but why would you do it to a boy or girl?, I just don't get it. It is not comon practice in Ireland.

Erica said...

As a non-expert in these matters [this, to Nonny], I don’t know how much of a Jewish population there is to speak of in Ireland but, in New York, up until recently, we had the largest Jewish population in the world, larger than that of Jerusalem. Even the most secular of these Jews, with little exception, I would bet has been circumcised. Circumcision, like a kitchen in which meats are kept separate from dairy, is a rite — a tradition, which Jews keep because it separates them from the other nations of the world, and does so, I believe, in a most humble, self-sacrificial manner.

During the Civil Rights era in the United States, when there was segregation, I’m sure you’ve learned about how downright insulting the state mandates were, that blacks had to ride in the backs of buses, couldn’t use the same water fountains that whites used, could check into certain hotels where whites were staying…if Caucasians had any sense of propriety, but still did not want to affiliate with blacks, they could simply have made the decision to remove themselves from situations in which blacks were present participants.

Think about it. In accordance with what is written in the Bible [not talking theology here, but fact], regardless of whether you believe it or not, there are gazillions of people who do, and the ones who identify as Jewish, for the sake of continuity of their heritage, will maintain these traditions. God told Abraham when he was 99 years old to remove his foreskin, and Abraham, as a sign of his loyalty and faithfulness to God, and as a mark of the Hebrew peoples’ covenant with God, obeyed.

For most Jews, unless they dissent, or convert, how must sensitivity is in the foreskin is of little importance in the Grand Scheme of Things. As a people, we’ve been ridiculed, hated, and worst of all, annihilated. In every generation, since the first Jew, there was always the possibility that we would be destroyed and, to ensure longevity, should there be even just one Jew left on the planet, we maintain these traditions because we understand the past, and we know that what happened to 6,000,000 of us — my relatives, included — only 63 years ago can always happen again.

Our parents, until we reach a certain age, are responsible for us and, in removing the foreskin, decide with a clear mind that, yes, they want this tradition, which dates back to the times of Abraham, to continue. It’s how we separate ourselves from the other nations of the world, and we certainly do not impose our practices on anyone. We do it ourselves, because we believe in it. We do not eat cheeseburgers, pork, and shellfish, and when people say, Whoa, that’s crazy! I say, it would be even crazier if we made YOU not eat cheeseburgers.

nonny said...

"God told Abraham when he was 99 years old to remove his foreskin, and Abraham, as a sign of his loyalty and faithfulness to God"

Abraham was an adult and could decide for himself, a new born baby has no choice. I'm all for freedom and tradition to to inflict an unnessecary medical on your child in the name of God or tradition seems excessive. I would put the wellfare of my child before any God or rite. The Newbie is Jewish and agrees he would not get his sons snipped. I suppose everyboy is different.

Mark said...

"it would be even crazier if we made YOU not eat cheeseburgers."

Yes. Erica, excellent point.

"to inflict an unnessecary medical on your child in the name of God or tradition seems excessive" Not being a Jew I think it is your right to NOT have your children circumcised, and I think everyone here, including me, is fully supportive of that right and rewultant decision. By the same token, from a Jewish point of view, it IS a necessary procedure, and I don't think a gentile has the right to tell us otherwise.

Mutual respect for each other's decisions is a beautiful thing.

BTW, Hugh, when I said it hasn't slowed me down I wasn't referring to the speed at which I engage in an individual act of intercourse, and I'm betting everyone else here knew what I meant.

I'm all about enjoying the ride and I'd wager it's just as much fun for me as anyone who has been unsnipped.