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Is circumcision a form of child abuse?


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Initial post: Dec 17, 2012 12:08:02 AM PST
eonxl says:
I am a circumcised male. (There I said it. Can we all stop being embarrassed now?)

I was told growing up that the purpose of circumcision was to ensure cleanliness. I fully planned on circumcising my own male children. But then I became an atheist, and I began to think about the issue outside of the context of religion.

And I did some research.

Some studies have found that uncircumcised men have up to four times more sensitivity than those that aren't. And there is very little medical evidence for a benefit, such as a lower rate of urinary infections in small boys -- even this is debated and the figure quoted the studies I saw found it to be less than one percent -- hardly statistically significant.

This got me thinking. Like so many practices originating from religious tradition (especially Judeo-Christian tradition) -- circumcision is about sex. It's about making sex less pleasurable for the man, based on the misguided reasoning that this will better enable a man to avoid sexual temptation (and after 4,000 years, I think we can conclude it doesn't work)..

It has the same basic purpose as that of female genital mutilation -- to decrease sexual pleasure with the aim of encouraging sexual purity.

Of course, circumcision isn't nearly as ghastly as what is done to young women in certain parts of the middle east -- but maybe that is why it continues to be practiced in the Western world -- that and the fact that men willingly inflict it upon their own male offspring...

As far as I can see, the only reason to continue this practice is a religious one, and it results in far more harm than good -- and originates from bronze-age, Jewish attitudes toward sexuality..

I think part of the reason no one talks about this issue is that most men do not want to stand up and say, "Hey, I wish I hadn't been circumcised." But I think that is an image issue, and an example of the abusers becoming abusers themselves-type of mentality -- they justify doing it to their children because it was done to them.

I think this is a religious practice that we should discontinue, and possibly make illegal as a form of child abuse.

Thoughts? --e

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 1:33:55 AM PST
G. Heron says:
The surgical removal of health tissue from a child without anesthetic would seem to be child abuse to me and I imagine the only reason it has survived this long is that it is tied to religion and society gives special privileges to religion.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 4:02:08 AM PST
Hey, I wish I hadn't been circumcised, but then it was fairly normal, I believe, and my mother presumably hadn't been fully informed on the *ins and outs* of it. In other words she had me done because it was normal at the time.

Some decades later she asked my wife at the time some question about whether or not she (my wife) *felt* it was beneficial - to her, presumably. My wife didn't know how to answer the question.

So my mother still didn't know what it was all about long after the event.

Mr Kellog, of the cornflakes, is reported to have advised circumcision to parents because it *discouraged masturbation*. In other words, it was done, in his view, to limit or control sexual pleasure. Whether that is moral or otherwise is down to the individual's viewpoint.

To me, to cut away good tissue on one's child is wrong, whether done in ignorance or not. May this thread help in the education of folks who are not sure about the merits and demerits of the second unkindest cut of all. Of course, for girls it is the unkindest, and probably most painful cut of all.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 7:07:05 AM PST
tokolosi says:
"Is circumcision a form of child abuse?"

YES.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 7:27:48 AM PST
Doog37 says:
I do not think it is child abuse. I do not have any trauma physically or mentally because of it. But I think there is a real question as to why do we continue to do it. First as a religious practice it is a small minority of the population. Most circumcisions are done in a hospital by a doctor. I do think it is weird that it is done by the Ob/Gyn not by a pediatrician, here you have a doctor who specializes in the female genitals operating (a very simple procedure) on a new born baby, but that might be just the hospital my son was born in.
I highly doubt it is done to reduce sexual pleasure; a fledgling religion isn't going to intentionally discourage sex and other Jewish customs point to cleanliness and there is little reason to suspect otherwise. People still keep kosher although the risk of illness from shellfish and pork are now quite low and most scholars would tell you this was a practice done for the sake of health. But now with the availability of indoor plumbing, genital hygiene is not an issue. But yet it still continues.
So the question then becomes (for non-Jews) why? Is it just a tradition that we choose to follow blindly? Perhaps, but I would like to suggest that at some subtle psychological level it is an aesthetic issue. That in some way we think a circumcised penis is in fact better looking than an uncircumcised one. We alter, decorate and mutilate our bodies in many ways for aesthetic reasons, from the basic acts of cutting hair and shaving (both removal of dead cells but a real alteration) to earrings, other piercings and tattoos. More recently we have seen a huge uptick in plastic surgery which serves no purpose other than aesthetics. Culturally it seems that we think of a circumcised penis as both the norm and what is preferred. Most pornography has men with circumcisions (in my personal viewing I have never seen an image or video with an uncircumcised penis) even dildos and vibrators when designed to look like a penis (and not just a generic shaft) are modeled on the "cut" variety. Add to that the fact that there is something more "animalistic" about an uncircumcised penis and it seems like it is done for a reason (right or wrong) and not just as a tradition or habit.
The biggest difficulty is that there are very few people who can legitimately comment on the difference between the two states of body. The reason it is done to a newborn is they heal very quickly. To perform a circumcision on an adult male especially once they are sexually active would be traumatic. Unless there are men who are uncircumcised who are willing to get circumcisions to be able to tell the rest of us if there is a significant loss of sensitivity, we might not know the truth. Add to that the fact that as a newborn the body may regenerate the nerve endings from the foreskin to the shaft and there may be no loss it is just different, it is not something we can say for certain is a bad thing. However there is a real possibility that someone has a surgery "botched" and looses some sensitivity or the very real risk of infedction. The question is the preceived benefit (if any) worth the real risk... Honestly I don't know.
I am a circumcised man who has chosen to have my son(s) circumcised I don't know if this is right but I believe it is and I am glad I am the way I am.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 7:29:29 AM PST
Yes. For someone in a modern society, there is no legitimate reason for the surgical removal of healthy tissue from a healthy child.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 8:35:33 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2012 8:36:42 AM PST
Jack Vix says:
They get infections all the time and they have to redo them sometimies. There's really no reason to do it and it, like you said, is merely reducing pleasure. It's one of the strangest most barbaric things we still do.

"Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, beautiful, almost perfect, now please hand me the sharp stone for its genetalia..."
-- Christopher Hitchens

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 9:13:29 AM PST
the kid should decide for himself when they are 21

more and more are not doing it at all

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 9:14:26 AM PST
you were lucky

all unnecessary surgery is stupid
and doing it to a baby is abuse

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 9:43:33 AM PST
J. Harding says:
eonxl,

I'll quibble with a few things you've said.

1. I don't think most parents (in America at least) who circumcise their sons do so to lessen sexual pleasure. I think it's mostly done for reasons of social acceptance and hygiene, misguided though those reasons may be.

2. There is at least one health benefit that appears to be conferred by male circumcision - lower HIV transmission rates:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/malecircumcision/

Aside from those two quibbles, I agree that male circumcision is unnecessary and potentially abusive.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 10:23:36 AM PST
A. Caplan says:
G. Heron says: The surgical removal of health tissue from a child without anesthetic would seem to be child abuse to me and I imagine the only reason it has survived this long is that it is tied to religion and society gives special privileges to religion.
>Pain forgotten is pain that never happened. I've yet to hear of any circumcised male claim a traumatic reaction in childhood or adulthood.
It is a non-issue that is to be decided by the parents.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 10:46:56 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2012 10:52:00 AM PST
Nope. You can't even look at a kid the wrong way without it not being called child abuse today.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 11:04:42 AM PST
Art Franklin says:
It's obviously child abuse if you bother to pay attention.

For example: Here is a defenseless baby. He has a religious ceremony performed upon him which he is too young to consent to. This is similar to the problem of baptism, where some religions wait until the person is cognizant to be baptized. But unlike baptism, a bris causes pain. The ceremony is performed by a man who is a member of the religion that invented the practice, and he not only cuts the penis but puts his mouth on it and sucks the blood off. Unfortunately this particular mohel has an STD, and now the infant has an infection that he never would have been exposed to without this practice.

Here is a litmus test:

Use your imagination. If somebody were to invent a NEW religion and try to convince people to allow a cleric to perform a ritual such as metzitzah b'peh on their baby, do you think it would catch on or do you think that the new prophet would be arrested as a child molester? The answer to this question tells me that people only do this because it is a "grandfathered in" practice.

Another thing: Originally the operation ordered by YHVH was not so extreme as it is now. The entire foreskin began getting cut away after Jews were using 'tugging' to fit in with their Greek peers that they mingled with. Then rabbis began ordering the priah to be performed in order to make such techniques impossible. But now in modern times, people can get cosmetic surgeries anyway. So now isn't it abusive to use the more extreme technique when it is pointless anyhow?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 11:09:16 AM PST
Art Franklin says:
"The reason it is done to a newborn is they heal very quickly."

I disagree. The reason it is done to a newborn is because they cannot verbally express an opinion and because they are smaller than the people deciding to perform the operation upon them. People can also rationalize that the newborn will not remember the traumatic event.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 11:38:40 AM PST
"Pain forgotten is pain that never happened."

So, according to your moral calculus, if one enjoys breaking the arms of babies and then re-setting them so that they heal properly, this would be, for you, a non-issue?

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 11:49:14 AM PST
Perhaps they should perform the circumcision while still in the mother's womb. It cannot be child abuse as it is still a fetus and not yet a baby. This should satisfy the pro-choice(abortion) folks out there.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 1:26:26 PM PST
Songbird says:
I don't support routine circumcision, but I do support careful conversations about forbidding religious rituals, regardless of my lack of religiosity.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 3:52:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2012 3:56:54 PM PST
A. Caplan says:
Art Franklin: For example: Here is a defenseless baby. He has a religious ceremony performed upon him which he is too young to consent to.
>A lot of things, including medical procedures, are done to babies without their consent. That is the responsibility of the parents.

Art Franklin says: The ceremony is performed by a man who is a member of the religion that invented the practice
>It can be, and often is, done by a doctor with a rabbi officiating.

Art Franklin says: and he not only cuts the penis but puts his mouth on it and sucks the blood off.
>I've been to quite a few brises, including the ones for by two sons, and have never seen that done. I have seen a glass tube used.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 4:19:40 PM PST
Ambulocetus says:
Infant genital mutilation should not be legal for ANY reason.

You want to have your own genitals cut up? A Prince Albert piercing? Pinking shears to make your foreskin look edgy? Be my guest. But until someone is 16 years old, you don't get to do it TO them. I don't care who you are, or who you think commands you to do so.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 4:28:14 PM PST
A Customer says:
I am curious. Why is it always atheists who are so against circumcision? Christianity doesn't require it, yet even Christians who don't have it done do not get all fanatical about other people getting their kid's circumcised. It seems that the overwhelming majority of the time it's atheists who act like it is some great Crime against Humanity.

It makes you wonder.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 4:44:46 PM PST
Ariex says:
onxl says: "I think part of the reason no one talks about this issue is that most men do not want to stand up and say, "Hey, I wish I hadn't been circumcised."

Ariex: Well, I haven't thought about it much, and at my age, I really don't give a bleep, as long as it still drains.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 4:55:01 PM PST
An uncircumcised weiner has no personality. At least that is what Elaine said. And I believe her.
Until then...off with their heads.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 4:57:07 PM PST
But yet, an atheist would not turn down a $100 bill that says "In God We Trust."

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 7:49:28 PM PST
Ehkzu says:
re: why is it always atheists who are so against circumcision?

I think you're onto something. Especially since the reasons presented are, as a group, borderline nonsensical.

1. sexual reduction

This is the biggest nonsense. Sexual sensitivity is maximized on the surface of the glans penis. The foreskin is retracted during intercourse. And there is exactly nothing in the traditions of primitive societies endorsing reducing male sexual pleasure--only female. Most primitive societies--including Western ones back in the day--were very strongly patriarchal and frequently polygamous--probably because (a) men had the power, and one way of expressing it was to acquire a new wife younger than the current one, while retaining the current one to raise the man's children and run the household, and (b) multiple wives was a form of ostentatious display of wealth and power.

Female genital mutilation was not to reduce female sexual pleasure per se; it was to make females more controllable--reducing her sexual pleasure is a means to that end. Just as you'd geld a stallion to make him docile. Since the men are the partriarchs, they have no reason to make themselves more controllable--it's oxymoronic.

2. Babies are not traumatized by male circumcision. It leaves no lasting pain. Humans can't remember anything that happened to them until their brains have matured sufficiently. I have some memories from a few months before my third birthday, but only because the car I was in got hit by a train. Barring trauma like that, lasting memories tend to start in the fourth year. And female genital mutilation isn't done until the child is close to puberty--and then it is definitely traumatic.

3. Calling this child abuse is an insult to those of us who were actually abused as children. Such talk is like a beautiful woman complaining that she's a C cup instead of a D cup to her homely younger sister.

4. Circumcision is painful, and if done to someone old enough to retain memories, even if done under hospital conditions, it will leave a memory of lasting pain, then discomfort, as the wound heals. So as MacBeth says, "If 'twere done, 'twere best 'twere done quickly."

5. In this thread the downside of HIV infection was only mentioned once, but it's a very big thing in the third world particularly. Circumcision reduces HIV transmission by an amazing degree--and for reasons that lead me to think that the reduction applies to a number of other STDs as well.

6. A related downside is that guys with foreskins have to add cleaning out the part under the foreskin regularly. It's not just where the HIV virus hangs out--even without that it tend to be a little cesspool if it hasn't been cleaned for a while.

7. The real downside to circumcision wasn't even mentioned: if you run naked many miles a day--as our hunter/gatherer ancestor did--a foreskinless penis is going to chafe something fierce. Fortunately, this is not a practical issue for most of us.

8. This crusade against male circumcision distracts from the actual crime: female genital mutilation, an unmitigated horror visited on untold millions of girls across Africa from South Africa to Egypt. In places like Somalia the incidence is around 98%, and it's very high even in supposedly more civilized Egypt--especially in rural areas. Every bit of effort expended against male circumcision would be vastly better spent on FGM--especially since it's even practiced on American girls from countries that practice this horror. They send girl back to the parents' homeland for the summer, where she's mutilated, then sent back here.

If you don't know what a horrible practice FGM is, just look it up. I won't go into the details here but they should make any civilized human sick to his or her stomach.

9. As for the role of the penis in art--that's simple. In art, how often are swords depicted in their sheaths? The forekin is a sheath, nothing more, nothing less. So it lacks emotional potency, unlike what it normally covers up in an uncircumcised male. Plus it looks a bit like a party hat...

10. As for atheists being the crusaders---not exactly. I think it's the subset of atheists who have an axe to grind. Most atheists consider religion irrelevant to their lives and just go about their business. But a certain percent of them were raised in households with one or more tyrannical parents, and/or in the grip of some religion that tyrannized the child.

For example, I've met ex-Catholics who seemed to be in a permanent low boil about childhood treatment they regarded as soul-crushing, and were angry at their parents, the priests, the nuns, and whoever else had ground them under their heels--from their POV.

I suspect such people form the core of this anti-foreskinectomy movement. Lets them get back at hated authority figures from their childhood. Of course, unlike the other points here, this is pure speculation. I only mention it because it makes sense to me, and because it give a plausible explanation as to why this is a Big Deal for some atheists and a complete non-issue for others.

Another aspect that makes this speculation seem more plausible is the fact that the one dissenting voice on this anticircumcision thread (before mine) was on-topic and non-obscene--yet it was No voted into invisibility. That tells me that many of the people pushing this are so childishly emotional about it that they cannot tolerate dissenting voices. And people who are childishly emotional about their pet peeves expect to be taken very, very seriously, because their fragile egos cannot bear to be mocked.

They're the kind of people who'll say "I find what you just said offensive" and think that simply saying that requires the other person to shut up. Like how some colleges have evolved baroque edifices of rules about what one is permitted and not permitted to say on campus, for fear of offending someone about something.

Like the college instructor who was fired for using the word "niggardly" in a lecture, to which an etymologically challenged female black student took great umbrage.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 8:24:07 PM PST
i had problems because of it

if i could bobbit the doctor who did me i would really enjoy that
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Initial post:  Dec 17, 2012
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