Monthly Archives: November 2014

Reader submission 2 – Tony intactivist

This post is submitted as a rebuttal to the prior guest post.

 

This is the one and only rebuttal post that I will allow.  The comments section is where you may reply to a post you disagree with.  That is not what reader submissions are meant for.

 

This is posted as is with no corrections or deletions.  This is obviously not written as an opinion by myself

 

GUEST POST – Rebuttal to “Reader Submission 1 -Parents Choice”

“Reader Submission 1 -Parents Choice” is a weird mix of rationalization from conclusion, argumentum ad populum, and straw men.

The writer claims “most men who are circumcised are happy with it. They are happy with their parents’ choice.” I agree with this, although my experience suggests that the approval rate is lower than most understand. But so what? It doesn’t demonstrate anything useful in defense of parental choice for non-therapeutic circumcision. “We’re happy with it” does not justify imposing it on someone who might not be happy with it.

This problem also exists in the later argument, “most men only know their circumcised state, so have no reference.” Physical experience isn’t the only point of reference. It’s eay to recognize what is normal and existed at birth. “It’s my penis. It was my foreskin.” is a valid point of reference. I have a reference to rights and choice. And having no reference doesn’t mean having no preference, or automatically having a preference for whatever your parents leave you with and/or what society says you should be happy with.

The writer asks if we should stop circumcision because a few are unhappy? Yes, and obviously so. If only one person *might* be unhappy with *non-therapeutic* circumcision, we should not perform it on children. Given that we know there are men who are unhappy, we easily jump that low hurdle.

The writer holds a misguided view of our society, claiming that we are a democracy, and “the majority makes a decision and circumcision is a perfectly legal parenting decision.” We are a republic, not a democracy. This is pedantic, but the difference matters. To defend a majoritarian view that fifty percent plus one validates an action is to open society to any degree of unethical behavior against a minority group (e.g. male minors) within society. History is full of examples of this. Pick your least favorite, maybe one that would’ve harmed you if you were born in an earlier era. Would the violation have been legitimate because a majority in your time supported it?

The principle involved is the right to bodily integrity and autonomy, a core human right. Human rights should never be open to majority vote. They have been, and clearly are in the present, as circumcision demonstrates. This does not make it valid to imagine the healthy foreskin of male children is the one area where an exception to this human right can and should exist, for reasons. With everything else with children, we recognize the illegitimacy of non-therapeutic surgical intervention as a parental “right”. This should be no different, “fifty percent plus n” notwithstanding.

This is critical here because, as the writer declares genital cutting to be a parental right, any such right must extend to all of their children, not just their sons. Either the right belongs to the parent or it doesn’t. If it does, it is without regard for the gender of their children, or we’re creating arbitrary rules unbounded by principles of rights and equality merely to justify what we want.

The writer reminds us that males circumcised as children “won’t remember it”. What else may we do to children because they won’t remember it? They won’t remember a punch or a broken arm or an amputated toe or … And yet, we recognize how absurd “won’t remember it” is for anything else because we’re not married to wanting and needing an exception for what was done to us and what we want to do to others. It’s arbitrary and indefensible, not to mention disgusting, as a defense.

The writer mentions “a good argument that it heals quicker in an infant”, which is a useful reminder that circumcision is surgery. It involves risk, creates a wound, and removes normal, functioning tissue. We must not pretend that the decision involves only the potential benefits some value.

The writer asks, “what about the women? What do they say?” This is irrelevant to anything more than a possible negotiation between a woman and her potential sexual partner(s). If a man’s partner wants him to be circumcised, that’s interesting, I suppose, but it holds no weight in consideration for what his parents should be allowed to do. What does individual male X prefer for himself? You don’t know. I don’t know. His parents don’t know. There’s no reason for any of our opinions to hold any sway.

“Even in the UK, which is not a country where circumcision is common, women have been known to prefer a circumcised man.” What percentage? Is it “most”? Is it “many”? Is there a citation for this “have been known to prefer” claim?

Next, notice the shift here, and from earlier points about sexual satisfaction: “Jews, Muslims and some Christians perform circumcision as a religious requirement, something that has happened for thousands of years. Would it still be required if circumcision was the debilitating action the intactivists claim? No. The religions would have adapted to remove the requirement. After all, it wouldn’t be good for the population as a whole if procreation was almost impossible as they like to claim.”

We’re all probably acquainted with the historical quotes relevant here to suggest the negative effects of circumcision were known long ago and intended, and have only recently been forgotten, although they still appear today. (e.g. it doesn’t effect sensitivity, but it makes you last longer, which is good. “Head I win, tails you lose”.) Even ignoring that, an argument about altered function (e.g. gliding) and/or sensitivity is not the same as an argument that it inhibits procreation. That’s a straw man. Knocking that one down isn’t proof of anything. If anyone has claimed that procreation is “almost impossible”, I haven’t seen it. Provide a citation, so I can criticize them, as well?

When the writer mentions the claim that “the boy should be free to make his own choices,” the missing piece is “just like his sisters.” His sisters have legal (and cultural) protections for their healthy genitals, so it’s incorrect to discuss circumcision as a parental right when concluding circumcision “is a perfectly legal choice for parents to make”. If it’s a parental right, again, that so-called right applies to parental choice regarding the healthy genitals of his sisters, too. How we interpret the law is wrong. Either parents have this right over their children, male and female, or they don’t. Which equality battle does the writer wish to fight? We get to defend equal rights *or* arbitrary genital cutting, not both. If we can pick the conflicting gendered sides we like, that may have majority support, but it has no principled foundation. That works from the conclusion we want, not to the valid conclusion.

This should be clear in the writer’s examples. “The other choices [parents] make” shifts from a gendered distinction on the right to genital integrity to a gender-free summation of other parenting choices. The comparison isn’t even whether parents may educate their sons and daughters differently, or feed them differently. It would be whether they can educate their daughters and not their sons. It would be whether they can feed their sons and not their daughters. Maybe most things are “more important than a small piece of skin.” But daughters have that same small piece of skin because they’re humans and humans, male and female, have a prepuce. Individual self-ownership of this “small piece of skin” is a human right, not somehow a female right and an adult male right.

The writer claims that parents can educate their son and “[h]e will understand that it was done for good reason, not just because the doctor said it was a good idea. That way it won’t be something for him to worry about, and it will be forgotten, just part of life.” Does the writer assume that all the men who aren’t happy being circumcised simply haven’t had that conversation with their parents? If they’d only have the conversation, the unhappy men would see the error(s) in their preference and suddenly thank their parents and forget the issue?

“Another large part of the intactivists tactics is to deny the many studies that have taken place into the benefits of circumcision. They claim the evidence is flawed, the studies are flawed, the medical organizations that publish them are biased towards circumcision. Really?”

I suspect the evidence is flawed. I suspect the organizations are biased towards circumcision, albeit with good intentions. But I’m willing to grant any and every potential benefit the writer wishes to claim. Make something up, if you want. It doesn’t matter to me. The right to bodily integrity still trumps this as a parental choice. For a non-therapeutic, permanent intervention, proxy consent must be held to a higher standard than individual consent. There are more effective, less invasive ways to prevent and/or treat virtually every claimed benefit. This is the same standard we apply to the genitals of female minors, and the remaining body parts of both girls and boys.

The writer suggests that opponents of non-therapeutic circumcision should appeal to lawmakers, governments, and large medical orgs. I request that the writer do more research into the various efforts of activists to understand that this is already occurring. The writer should also ponder the differences in how lawmakers, governments, and large medical orgs outside the United States have approached this topic.

 

 

 


Reader Submission 1 -Parents Choice

This is posted as written, with no edits.   Any submissions are welcome though I won’t post vitriolic rants with vile language or threats.  Simply leave the post you’d like me to post in the comment section and write ‘guest post’ or ‘reader submission ‘ or something similar somewhere visible.

I think we are all aware of the tactics employed by the intactivists, they are certainly vocal enough to ensure we all know exactly what they think. But what about the rest of us? Shouldn’t we have a voice too, why don’t we speak up for the right of parents to choose, or those that fully support circumcision. I guess the truth is that for most of us it really isn’t that big a deal. Intactivists like to claim that some men are unhappy being circumcised. I don’t doubt that, there are posts on the web that show some men are unhappy. But we must remember that they are small in number, most men who are circumcised are happy with it. They are happy with their parents’ choice. So should we stop circumcision because a few are unhappy? No, just as everything else in a democracy, the majority makes a decision and circumcision is a perfectly legal parenting decision. Why not wait until the child is old enough to make a decision? There is a claim that it is painful for an adult. It is probably painful for the child too, but they won’t remember it. I am sure that most men are glad they don’t have any memory of their circumcision. There is also a good argument that it heals quicker in an infant. So it heals quicker and there will be no memory, we’re good to go… right? Wait, here comes another intactivist argument, circumcision totally desensitizes the penis (or according to a comment I read recently, it weaponizes the penis…. Wtf? Weaponizes? What does that mean?). The truth is that most men only know their circumcised state, so have no reference. Well, again most men seem happy with what they have, and again the democracy rules. What about those that are circumcised as adults? What do they say? It seems that most of them are happy to be without their foreskin. In both cases they report happy and fulfilling sex lives. But if we can’t rely on the evidence from the largest group of men, because they have no reference, who can we ask? Well in America most men are circumcised, so what about the women? What do they say? Of those that have experience of both circumcised and uncircumcised, most will either say they prefer circumcised, or have no overall preference. Only a small percentage will say they prefer an uncircumcised man. So what about another claim from intactivists that it ruins sex for women too, well they would be voting for uncircumcised if that was the case. Even in the UK, which is not a country where circumcision is common, women have been known to prefer a circumcised man. So another claim that doesn’t add up. Jews, Muslims and some Christians perform circumcision as a religious requirement, something that has happened for thousands of years. Would it still be required if circumcision was the debilitating action the intactivists claim? No. The religions would have adapted to remove the requirement. After all, it wouldn’t be good for the population as a whole if procreation was almost impossible as they like to claim. So it comes down to a choice for the parents, and as I stated at the beginning, it is a perfectly legal choice for parents to make. Intactivists like to say that the boy should be free to make his own choices, but parents have a duty to care for their offspring. The other choices they make have a much bigger impact on what that boy becomes as an adult. Feeding can affect development, schooling will affect knowledge and social skills. The parent’s attitude will have an impact on the person they bring up too. All of which are more important than a small piece of skin. What do you do if you have (or will) circumcise your son? Well, make sure you are happy to talk about it when the inevitable questions arise. Be able to give good reasons why you circumcised him. That might mean researching and understanding the benefits of circumcision, or it could be that it is required for religion. He will understand that it was done for good reason, not just because the doctor said it was a good idea. That way it won’t be something for him to worry about, and it will be forgotten, just part of life. Another large part of the intactivists tactics is to deny the many studies that have taken place into the benefits of circumcision. They claim the evidence is flawed, the studies are flawed, the medical organizations that publish them are biased towards circumcision. Really? I doubt these large medical organizations are trying to brainwash us into circumcising. They risk losing all credibility if they cannot back up the studies, would it be worth it? Finally when they cannot persuade parents that their arguments are right, they start the personal attacks. Why do this? If they genuinely wanted to stop parents circumcising their sons they should go to the law makers, governments, these large medical orgs and persuade them to outlaw it. But they know that they cannot change the law, their arguments are not strong enough for that, as I have shown. So instead they go after the vulnerable new mother (mostly they attack the women, not men) telling her that she has harmed her child. So we are back to the start again, gone full circle. Do most circumcised men feel unhappy? No, they are perfectly fine being circumcised. So it is definitely not a problem and should (will) remain a parent’s choice to make.