NOTE: This post was originally published in August, 2013. In addition, I did a companion podcast episode at that time (my first one ever), and I have included the relevant excerpts in a revised clip below.
I recently came across this post by L. Byron at Trigger Alert: Top 10 Issues Facing UK Men & Boys
It made me start thinking about circumcision, and I realized that I still, at this age and after blogging about sex for years, know basically nothing about what a foreskin is.
I’ve heard that it has many sensitive nerve endings that increase pleasure. But why do we have them in the first place? Obviously many guys get by just fine without them.
Since I believe in evolution, I was confident that I would discover the foreskin was a biologically advantageous part of the male physiology. That hypothesis was soon proven correct.
First I found this interesting “Wiki Answers” link, which, although it frames the discussion in terms of “Why the foreskin benefits women,” is pretty clear on why it benefits men as well.
Then I found this much more clinical, thorough analysis of what a foreskin is, how the intact penis develops, and all the architecture involved. WARNING: LOTS OF PICTURES OF PENISES* – LINK HERE.
*Never thought I’d have to write this on my blog.
Just as in the past when I’ve stopped to consider this issue, thinking about circumcision made me angry. Sad to say, I’ve definitely had some painful experiences due to my lack of a foreskin– tears and even a bit of bleeding around the head of my penis. And I definitely find it painful and difficult to get myself into a girl, no matter how wet she is, without using a condom or external lubrication.
These experiences are very frustrating, and I can’t help but feel I am being denied a primal, raw, natural experience that my entire body was designed for.
I come from a secular Jewish background, so questioning circumcision is completely blasphemous around my extended family and other Jewish friends.
In my completely un-researched opinion, my sense is that Jewish doctors had a lot of influence in bringing circumcision to the mainstream in the U.S. through the 1900s. Now, it seems that Jews are weary of people who are against circumcision, suspecting they are anti-Semitic in their intentions.
Opposition of circumcision probably has very little to do with hating Jews, though if Jews continue to be the most ardent proponents of the procedure, certainly there will be some conflation of the Jewish people with the issue itself, which could bleed through at times if things get politically antagonistic.
Ironically, most of my relatives are proud of how little regard they have for the written laws of the Bible– they are smart, modern Jews after all– believing that religion is “made-up,” as if that proves how intelligent they are. They eat pork, mix meat and dairy, drive cars on Saturday.
But when it comes to the forced removal of part of a baby boy’s penis… well, that is sacrosanct.
Never mind the fact that as many as 117 babies die each year from medical circumcisions performed by a doctor.
Or from Herpes after an Orthodox rabbi sucks blood from the penis with his mouth after removing the foreskin. And those rabbis are sucking blood out of baby-penises every fucking day. We only hear about it when the kids die.
That should really tell you all you need to know about the issue right there.
But this really is a problem that goes much beyond Jewish people. If we remove this from the equation, we still see a great cultural trend toward circumcision in the U.S., which has become synonymous with racial and class divides. It is much more common for white people to be circumcised than blacks or latinos.
An intact penis is thought of as “weird,” “alien,” “strange.” People think of it as “foreign-looking.” I’m not citing any research– these are things I’ve actually overheard. Keep in mind that this is the way the penis is naturally formed, the way that men are biologically meant to be. This is the penis that is coded in your DNA. But now it’s “weird.”
Men who are circumcised are falling victim to a mere fad. It’s “out of style” to have a foreskin now, so despite the fact that an intact penis is more pleasurable, functions more properly, and there are no significant health risks to having one, we are all deprived of experiencing sex as nature intended– for our entire life on this planet– because it’s simply what people do right now.
When you ask people why babies should be circumcised, they will give you reasons such as “It’s healthier,” and “Foreskins are gross… they are too hard to take care of, they smell bad…” etc. (I would reply that taking care of an intact penis is the original “It’s so easy, a caveman can do it!”). I’m going to estimate that 0% of their opinion is formed by thorough research into the matter.
In doing some research myself, I did find quite an interesting set of stats from THE CDC:
Basically– and I can’t believe I’m reading this correctly– If a man has vaginal sex with 10,000 HIV-positive women, he would contract the disease around 5 times. In other words, it’s a 1-in-2,000 chance.
Apparently if you throw your semen at someone, neither you nor they are at risk, luckily.
But studies have shown circumcision might reduce a male’s risk of contracting HIV during vaginal sex in the neighborhood of 50%. Which means that if you’re circumcised, you’ve gone from a 0.05% chance of contracting HIV, to a 0.025% chance.
If you’re a white male using a condom, your chances of contracting HIV are basically 0% either way. But 50% means very little when you’re dealing with such small numbers. And that’s if those studies are even true, which is still very much in doubt.
I was so dismayed thinking about circumcision today that I posted something about it on my personal Facebook page. Essentially I said that if you call yourself pro-choice, and you don’t oppose circumcision, you’re a hypocrite. A couple of girls quickly liked my post, and others left neutral or slightly-negative comments, kind of disagreeing but acting befuddled.
It might be a personal risk to draw attention to my beliefs in this arena, especially tying it to the abortion issue– but my post was deliberately provocative, because I wanted to surprise people and make them react. Who knows, maybe there was one future father in my list of friends who read that post, and might have possibly been led toward not circumcising his son in the future. If that is the case, I just want to say to that son and his intact foreskin: you’re welcome.
I deliberately called out liberals/feminists, because their hypocrisy is frustrating to me. Their battle cry is “My body. My choice.” But I guess they don’t believe that applies if you’re male. Being pro-choice (in theory) is about holding the belief that, despite the deep tragedy that is snuffing out a fetus’ future, we must uphold individuals’ agency over their own bodies first.
How then is it logical to permanently remove a vital part of a boy’s reproductive organ, when he is too young to protest?
We could eradicate breast cancer today if we instituted double-mastectomies for all baby girls. Does that mean we should? I’m pretty sure breasts exist for a reason. I guess it’s lucky that an ancient tribal religion in the desert didn’t decide breasts were unsanitary as well.
I spoke to my dad briefly on the phone and told him what I wrote. He laughed and said he understood. He told me that he and my mom almost didn’t circumcise me. He had brought up the fact that it was merely a religious tradition. Their Jewish doctor believed that Jewish babies should be circumcised by rabbis, so he was reluctant to perform the procedure. But eventually they decided that it was just the right thing to do, so they advised him to circumcise me.
I appreciated my dad’s honesty, and his understanding of my concerns. He apologized that he had made that decision for me, and I told him, truthfully, that I harbor no anger toward him for it. Why would they be the ones to go against tradition, when 99% of their family and Jewish friends would not even question it?
But I’m different, I suppose, and I plan on ending this line of abuse that has been passed on and on to each generation.
I believe in evolution, and I believe in the foreskin.