Culture War Correspondence: Circumcision

KAT: Greetings girls and boys, today Gordon and I are here to discuss something that I have no personal experience with…: circumcision.

Kitten gifs- because, I’m not going to search for any circumcision-related images.

GORDON: That makes two of us then…

KAT: Circumcision is one of those things that seems to be pretty common here in North America (Gordon aside), but do we really know why it is still common when in places like Europe (for example) few men are circumcised?

Since you’ve already shared your lack of experience with us Gordon, would you mind me asking why your parents chose to forgo the knife?

GORDON: I’m not entirely sure. I avoid discussion my genitals with my parents, but then again, I’m eccentric like that.

My guess would be that there was simply never any view of it as a necessity. Most of the myths surrounding it had been dispelled by that point, I assume.

KAT: Fair enough. Even though many of those myths have been dispelled, there are still pretty high rates of circumcision in Canada and the States.

GORDON: In spite of circumcisions prevalence, my association with the word is largely Judaism (though it’s practiced by other Middle-Eastern and African groups as well). These folks would argue that circumcision is a vital part of religious and cultural traditions, but I gotta ask- should we as a society permit this?

I mean, I’m the doctors are good at their jobs, but mistakes have been made in the past.

All in all it’s hard not to look at it as being… I dunno- it just strikes me as kinda presumptuous (I have the same issue with piercing babies’ ears, for the record).

KAT: Fair enough. I guess my issue with it is our different approach when it comes to FGM [female genital mutilation] and male circumcision. Most western countries are pretty quick to condemn female circumcision and yet most people are surprised to hear anyone protest the circumcision of boys. I never really thought twice about it until my first year of University when I was shown a clip of a rather … too detailed.. documentary on circumcision. Watching those babies screaming definitely made me rethink the whole process.

I realize we touched on cultural sensitivity in the past, but it seems like it’s relevant here again. Is it the right of an individual to circumcise their child for religious reasons? Should the government ever get involved to ensure the safety of the children in question?

GORDON: Eesh. That’s a tough one, but my gut reaction is to say “yes”. I mean, we’re literally slicing off part of some kid’s junk without his knowledge or consent. We’ve found that no major health benefits to circumcision and our acceptance of it seems largely cultural- like you said, the idea of female circumcision gets the entire Western world up in arms.

There just doesn’t seem to be any justification- not even theologically.

KAT: What about there claim that circumcision cuts down on the transmission of AIDS?

GORDON: I’d be interested in seeing the research on that, but assuming it is true, it still seems like shaky logic, at best. It’s kinda like saying that slicing my arm off at the elbow reduces the chance of my dying from an infection of said arm. It’s true, but there’s so many other options out there as to make it kinda ridiculous.

To clarify though, I’m talking about infant circumcision here. I’m not a fan of piercings, but what an adult chooses to do with his or her body I think is their own decision.

KAT: Yeah, I definitely wasn’t thinking about any adult… modifications.

So if we agree that circumcision generally brings more harm than good, is there anything we as “citizens” should do? Beyond just not circumcising any offspring we may have, that is.

GORDON: I’d be lying if I said I thought anti-circumcision legislation should be a major priority with everything going on in the world, but I guess general social pressure once again plays its part. We propagate the message that circumcision is generally unjustified. For infants, anyways.

KAT: Yeah, I’m not sure I would push for any major political “attack” on circumcision at this point. Especially because it would probably be seen as an attack on certain religious groups.

GORDON: And with that, I believe we’re out of time. As always, the comment section is open for discussion, challenges, and baseless accusations.

KAT: Thanks again for joining us for this up close and personal discussion of America (and Canada’s) nether-regions.

4 responses to “Culture War Correspondence: Circumcision

  1. Circumcision of male is babies something that isn’t really necessary but also isn’t really harmful or traumatic (provided done in hospital for an infant). As has been shown for centuries, there’s no diminishing of sexual response and no health risk, and some minor evidence of a small health benefit in a few cases.

    The danger of talking up this issue is that it often serves to derail criticism of the very real and severe problem of female genital mutilation, sometimes called circumcision. This usually severely impairs a woman’s ability to enjoy her own body’s sexuality, often has very serious health risks, and is usually employed in concert with efforts to control and dis-empower women.

    Some cultural traditions are generally harmless. Others are not, and in this case result from misogyny and patriarchy masquerading as religion.

    A minor second danger of talking about male circumcision as a problem is, simply, the risk of creating a problem by making circumcised males , especially youths, feel different or ashamed. (Likely problems occasionally reported by anti-male-circumcision activists result from such stress!)

    I don’t think male circumcision is necessarily something that should be encouraged. But it’s about as harmlessly as a culture encouraging children via social pressure to get ear piercings or the like. I wouldn’t make anything more of it. People do far, far, far worse things to their children -and it is those things that should be targeted!

    • Well, I’d argue (and I think I already did in the post) that there’s generally no sense in risking it, y’know? I mean, most circumcisions are done properly, but every once in a while you get some pretty traumatic mishaps. Not a ton, but why bother with it if it doesn’t do much either way?

      And certainly, worse things can happen to kids, but we’re not advocates of lesser-evilism here at CWR. If something can be fixed in a culture, it oughta be fixed. Might not be top of the agenda, but definitely an item on it.

  2. The trouble is, advocating against male circumcision – a really minor issue at best – is probably equal or worse in the harm it does than the circumcision itself. It creates false equivalencies (between male and female circumcision) thus providing ammunition to the later evil practice’s supporters and also risks “othering” those people who parents chose to have male circumcisions by treating what was and is a fundamentally harmless or at worse pointless act as something that wrong or bad.

    Incidentally, sorry about arguing with a lot (here and in Palestine issue). Not trying to troll your very interesting and progressive blog.

    Just used to hang out on the Mary Sue (under different handle) but with its current changes no longer feel it’s a safe space, so been lurking elsewhere.

    I do appreciate your good arguments against circumcision, and your blogs advocacy regarding Palestine, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them! And I enjoy a lot of other content here…

    • Well, I wouldn’t draw and equivalency between the two, and I’d be skeptical that arguing against it would make others come to that conclusion. We aint talking about an across-the-board offensive, we’re just challenging a couple common misconceptions and saying that it really doesn’t do anything.

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