Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let's not call Jesse Bering's penis "mutilated"

Jesse Bering posted a blog entry called "Hey Andrew Sullivan, Stop Calling My Penis Mutilated". The initial point is what is becoming a personal argument between both individuals in regards to the circumcision issue, especially in light of the new AAP Policy Statement.

However, Bering made some points that many intactivists take offense with, such as:

The AAP task force, comprised of an accomplished team of pediatric bioethicists, epidemiologists, urologists and anaesthesiologists, along with consultants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, analyzed hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies published between 1995 and 2010, including the HIV findings that I’d gone over in my original Scientific American piece.
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Yet the Academy’s endorsement of infant male circumcision as a minimally invasive prophylactic medical procedure offering potentially major health benefits makes it aligned—and unapologetically so—with a growing body of other formidable organizations, including the World Health Organization and UNAIDS.
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[Andrew Sullivan] cited dubious survey data suggesting negligible sexual problems in circumcised adult males
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knowing what we do now... infant male circumcision is—to me—the more humane choice for parents facing this hard decision
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The righteous indignation of those who casually employ such mutilation rhetoric should be turned right back against them by those of us who are, in fact, circumcised males and do not appreciate being called “mutilated”
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the intactivists (an aggressively vocal minority that is, incidentally, overwhelmingly comprised of women and non-circumcised men who have no insight whatsoever into what it’s like to be a man who had his foreskin removed during a developmental stage that guarantees he has no memory of it
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“Can you imagine … forcible prophylactic mastectomies to prevent breast cancer?” he writes, astounded by my and the AAP’s stupidity. Notice how intactivists like to sneak in loaded words like “forcible” to trump up the false horror. Nobody is “forcing” parents to circumcise their infant sons. I’ve stressed repeatedly that I am not “pro-circumcision” but “pro-parent choice,”
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infant male circumcision is not, as Sullivan would have you believe, the moral equivalent of female clitoridectomy. That analogy would only apply if, say, circumcision meant the removal of the actual glans penis (the “head”) and if it were done not in the best health interest of the child, but instead to eliminate his capacity for any future sexual pleasure. So to compare removal of the male foreskin with that hideous practice of clipping off the clitoris is, at best, a show of remarkable naiveté regarding human reproductive anatomy. At worst, it is patent dishonesty by a rhetorician that is designed to exploit the emotions of more ignorant others. I’ll let you decide which of the two Sullivan is guilty of in juxtaposing foreskin with clitoris.
Minimally invasive prophylactic medical procedure? Growing body of organizations (2 of them)? Negligible sexual problems? Humane choice? Mutilation rethoric? Women and non-circumcised men? (What about all the circumcised intactivists, do we not exist?) Not forcible because nobody is forcing the parents? Is the child sitting in a circumstraint out of his own will to get an "immunization"? No. Clitoridectomy? Not in health interests but to eliminate the capacity for any future sexual pleasure?

I commented (or littered his blog with my comment):

 20. dreamer_fla 6:42 am 09/11/2012

    Let me start by disclosing that I am an intactivist, and that I am not a woman nor an uncircumcised men.

    I am sorry that Andrew Sullivan called your penis “mutilated”. The AAP stated in 2010 that “mutilation” is an inflammatory term that tends to foreclose communication and that fails to respect the experience of the many women who have had their genitals altered and who do not perceive themselves as “mutilated””, and I believe that similar courtesy should be granted to circumcised men who don’t feel that they were mutilated.

    I would expect reciprocally similar respect for those of us who perceive ourselves as mutilated, claim that you seem to dismiss very easily in your blog.

    You seem to believe that FGM is always the removal of the clitoris. This is false. There are 4 documented kinds of FGM. The AAP themselves acknowledged, again in 2010, that “some forms of FGC [they didn't call it 'mutilation', they just called it 'cutting'] are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly performed in the West”, when they were promoting the now infamous “ritual nick” for female minors.

    Again, no, some forms of FGM are just the removal of the clitoral hood (which is formed from the same basic tissue as the male foreskin) or parts of the labia. BTW, it is interesting that the typical clitoris has approximately 8,000 nerve endings, while the typical foreskin has approximately 20,000.

    Also, when we intactivists speak of “forceful circumcision”, we don’t imply that the parents are being forced to circumcise their children. We mean that children are forced into being circumcised. If you were to ask any doctor, they would tell you that circumcision is an elective surgery, but the reality is that boys have as many chances to “elect” the surgery, as the African girls have a chance to elect their genital mutilation. I never thought I would need to explain this, especially not in a blog called Scientific American”. There is no doubt that the parents are forcing an amputation upon their children, and less doubt that this is not an “immunization”.

    If you have read the Technical Report from the AAP, you would notice that there is no description of the anatomy and functions of the foreskin. It would make sense to study the foreskin when dedicating a Policy to its amputation, wouldn’t it?

    However, they AAP references (and yet dismiss the conclusion) a study by Sorrels et al, 2007, which “suggests that the transitional region from the external to the internal prepuce is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. It appears that circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.

21. dreamer_fla 7:26 am 09/11/2012

    P.S. I can’t help but notice that you linked an article on FGM that does explain the different types of FGM, but yet you assume it’s only and always the removal of the clitoris, and always with the intention of removal of pleasure.

    So, if FGM was done with the “intention” of providing a health benefit, would there be a difference? Or, if male circumcision was done with the intention of removing pleasure, would it make a difference?

    Because both actions are documented. Not only people who practice FGM argue health benefits. It also happens that women who practice the “sunat” (a less invasive form of FGM) assure that it does not reduce their sexual desire. But also Rebecca Stallings in “for better of worse: female circumcision and HIV in Tanzania” expected to find more prevalence of HIV in circumcised females, but found the opposite, conclusion that she dismissed by stating that “as no biological mechanism seems plausible, we conclude that it is due to irreducible confounding”.

    It is also worthy of notice that Male Circumcision has the intention of removing pleasure from the beginning, which has been documented by Philo (1st Century Jewish Philosopher – “circumcision represents the excision of the pleasure of sex, which bewitches the mind”), by XII Century Jewish Philosopher Moses Maimonides (“As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate”) and by the late XIX and early XX century doctors who started the practice of “medical” circumcision in the UK and US, such as E.J. Spratling (“In all cases of masturbation circumcision is undoubtedly the physician’s closest friend and ally… the longer it takes to have an orgasm, the less frequently it will be attempted”), E. Harding Freeland (“the removal of the protective covering of the glans tends to dull the sensitivity of that exquisitly sensitive structure and thereby diminishes sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus”), L.W. Wuesthoff (“Circumcision not only reduces the irritability of the child’s penis, but also the so-called passion of which so many married men are so extreamly proud”) and R. W. Cockshut (“I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is “against nature”, but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin”).

    Those who started the routine practice of circumcision knew what they were doing and knew what their goal was. It was the same goal in 1860 than it was in the first century of our era. Excision of the pleasure of sex. A leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Unnatural passion cut down by a timely circumcision. Diminishing sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus.

    It was only after the 60′s that American doctors started stating that circumcision did not change the form or function of sex. But those were doctors who had already been circumcised at birth, so they had no first person experience of the foreskin to be able to tell any different.
I wanted to finish my comment saying something like: "So failing to compare the forced removal of the infant male foreskin with female genital mutilation is, at best, a show of remarkable naivety regarding human reproductive anatomy. At worst, it is patent dishonesty by a rhetorician that is designed to exploit the emotions of others in order to perpetuate a harming practice. I’ll let you decide which of the two Bering an is guilty of", but that would have been too personal.

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