Circumcision and Clean Syringes

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Sometimes I run into these tricky issues that I find it hard to make up my mind about, like the moral aspects of prostitution. Another one is public healthcare aiding circumcision performed for cultural and religious reasons.

Medically speaking, circumcision either of males or females is of course just a holdover from a barbaric past. No enlightened modern Jew, Muslim or generic American — groups that cultivate this cultural trait — should even consider it for their children. A cultural identity strongly contingent on the mutilation of babies can’t be worth hanging on to without modification.

Before anyone calls me a xenophobe, let me state that I don’t single out cultures and religions for disrespect: I disrespect harmful traits of all cultures, including my own. I’m an individualist. Don’t be cultural cattle, people, think for yourselves!

Male circumcision may protect men to some extent from catching HIV from women, a recent discovery that may become somewhat useful in Third World countries with a rampant HIV epidemic. Countries, incidentally, where a safe and clean circumcision is hard to come by.

So there’s no question that I’m against circumcision. My quandary is whether a secular state should aid those deluded individuals who want to put their children through the procedure. I have a feeling that it’s against the Hippocratic Oath for a physician to perform a circumcision without a purely medical motivation.

Amateur circumcisionists around the world cause a lot of medical problems for their defenseless victims. Therefore, Swedish public healthcare is offering trained medical aid with the procedure (for baby boys only, the female variety thankfully being illegal). This is somewhat analogous to clean syringes for heroin addicts: we have a group of citizens who aren’t acting rationally and who harm themselves, and so we provide a service that harms them a bit to keep them from harming themselves more.

But there are two important differences between heroin addicts and circumcision enthusiasts. The former a) suffer from a debilitating medical condition that takes away much of their free will and rationality, b) harm themselves. Not so with the latter. They are on average about as rational as any person can hope to be. They’re just unable to think outside their traditional box. And they harm small children.

I think my position is this. If we are going to allow male circumcision for cultural and religious reasons, then public healthcare should perform the procedure. I mean, circumcision enthusiasts pay taxes too, and we want to protect the kids from infection. But, we don’t allow female circumcision, thank goodness. So I really think we should take the same step for males under the age of 18. Let’s get rid of this cruel Bronze Age superstition. Go on worshipping whatever fictional character in the sky you like, just don’t let that interfere with the genitals of defenseless children entrusted to your care.

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98 thoughts on “Circumcision and Clean Syringes

  1. Circumcision isn’t as good protection against STDs as condoms, so what we need to provide 14-year-olds with is information about that.

    Yes, I’m against piercing, indeed any body modification, of babies.

    You don’t need to measure the pleasure decrease because you already know that there’s significant loss of nerve endings.

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  2. Jewish circumcision is supposed to occur when the baby boy is eight days old. There are fewer complications associated with neonatal circumcision than with adult circumcision, (both of which are low).

    http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/clinical/clinicalrecs/circumcision.html

    William Saletan makes the case for circumcision
    http://www.slate.com/id/2148034/

    August 06: anti-circumcision conference in Seattle
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=60418

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  3. I think The Onion says it all: “Let’s hope that Africans are more adept at outpatient surgery than they are at handling condoms.”

    http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/u_n_urges_circumcision_to_fight

    That’s the stance people like Colugo are taking. So obsessed are they with their crusade to commit this act on small children that they will justify it however they can. Encouraging unsafe sex in Africa? Discourage condom use and send confusing, mixed messages about both safe sex and FGM? Absolutely, so long as it means more baby boys are being needlessly mutilated. That’s the goal. It must be justified and encouraged no matter what.

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  4. Circumcision: Fact, Fiction and Hype
    Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience
    http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060822_bad_circumcision.html

    Hugo Schwyzer
    http://hugoboy.typepad.com/hugo_schwyzer/2006/10/in_january_2005.html

    “In January 2005, at the age of thirty-seven, I was circumcised. …

    I write as a pro-feminist angered by the “victim consciousness” of anti-circumcision advocates, who equate a quick, safe, beneficial procedure that rarely produces lasting trauma to an operation performed on girls that produces lasting pain and robs them of the opportunity for sexual delight.”

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  5. Colugo, do you honeslty think an obviously biased article and some random guy’s blog supports your argument in any way? Hell, if we can post random people’s blogs and expect others to respect that as the gospel I’d be more than happy to provide a few.

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  6. In most uncircumcised males, the prepuce or foreskin rolls back and completely disappears upon a full erection. This makes a condom easy to insert at that time. A flaccid uncircumcised penis will not hold a condom well. I would guess that would apply to circumcised men as well.

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  7. “You don’t need to measure the pleasure decrease because you already know that there’s significant loss of nerve endings.”

    Are you worried about loss of nerve endings? Or loss of sensation? If loss of nerve endings didn’t result in loss of sensation, would you worry about it? I suspect there are also loss of nerve endings when an elective appendectomy is performed, but do we care if there’s no change in quality of life? If there is indeed loss of sensation (and there may well be, but I doubt there’s data to support it one way or the other) that’s a point against elective circumcision, but I don’t think loss of nerve endings per se (in the absence of loss of sensation) would be a point against circumcision.

    I think this all comes down to a cost/benefit analysis. In an African country, where HIV prevalence is absurdly high, I would think one would take the circumcision route (*in addition* to better sex education and condom usage). In Western countries, where we currently don’t suffer from the HIV prevalence rates seen in many other parts of the world, it certainly seems less urgent.

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  8. I have the greatest sympathy for Opisthokont and other men who regret they were circumcised as babies. All they can do is try to prevent infants in their own families, or of their friends, from suffering the same indignity. I am sure the number of adult men who choose to be circumcised must be minuscule, they know what they stand to lose. Circumcision is mostly promoted by circumcised doctors and circumcised laymen who cannot accept the fact that they were robbed of an intrinsic human ability and wish to inflict it on as many others as possible, including their own children.

    The foreskin or prepuce serves 2 purposes: normally it covers the glans or bulbous end of the penis for protection. The glans and the underside of the foreskin are moist and soft in uncircumcised men, akin to the inside of the mouth. They are very sensitive; if the foreskin contracts a little and leaves a bit of the glans exposed to rub against underwear, that can cause great irritation in uncircumcised men. During an erection, the foreskin is pulled back by the enlargement of the penis; at full erection, the stretched foreskin becomes the front surface of the enlarged penis, behind the glans. Although without doubt this is an erogenous area, I would say that in uncircumcised men it is the glans which is the apex of sensation.

    Yes, there is a price to pay for this. This moist area, just like the mouth, is vulnerable. However, it is easy to keep clean and those who are monogamous or regularly use condoms have nothing to worry about. Cruelty to infants is unforgivable; circumcision should be restricted to adults only.

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  9. I sympathize with those who regret being circumcised. (But of course I can’t really grasp those feelings.)

    The people won’t hear the message about “partial protection”, they will hear “prevents AIDS”.

    Sounds plausible. And perhaps WHO didn’t factor in that. (I’m haven’t time to check today.)

    Let’s us say that I’m tentatively skeptic to the reports and decision for the time being. It would be tragic if it was wrong. And I prefer condoms everywhere that is (socially and economically) realistic.

    You don’t need to measure the pleasure decrease because you already know that there’s significant loss of nerve endings.

    Presumably this is observable too. First, circumcised men take reportedly longer to orgasm on average. (One can discuss if that is bad for the partner, of course. But IIRC there are now chemical and perhaps CBT fixes available for too fast males.) Second, adult circumcised have given subjective ratings.

    Now, the reason the question is even asked may have to do with the fact that circumcision is mostly done on pre-sexual individuals…

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  10. Anne:”The people won’t hear the message about “partial protection”, they will hear “prevents AIDS”.”

    NYT: ‘W.H.O. Urges Circumcision to Reduce Spread of AIDS’ 3/29/07
    http://tinyurl.com/2yvj2d

    “Dr. Halperin, who said he had interviewed hundreds of African men about sex and AIDS, said he had seen growing acceptance of circumcision among those whose tribes or religions did not practice it.

    “And I can count on one hand the number who said, ‘Oh, yeah, if I get circumcised, I’m bulletproof, I can’t get AIDS,’ ” he said. Many say that circumcision “makes them feel cleaner,” he said, and that it reduces their chances of getting other venereal diseases.

    The countries where the operation is likely to do the most good — those where AIDS prevalence is high and circumcision is low — are places like South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and other southern countries that have, by African standards, good health care.

    “They can do it safely,” Dr. Halperin said.”

    J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2007 Jan 1;44(1):66-70.
    Male circumcision in Siaya and Bondo Districts, Kenya: prospective cohort study to assess behavioral disinhibition following circumcision.
    http://tinyurl.com/2ydohr

    “During the first month following circumcision, men were 63% and 61% less likely to report having 0 to 0.5 and >0.5 risky sex acts/week, respectively, than men who remained uncircumcised. This difference disappeared during the remainder of follow-up, with no excess of reported risky sex acts among circumcised men. Similar results were observed for risky unprotected sex acts, number of risky sex partners, and condom use. DISCUSSION: During the first year post-circumcision, men did not engage in more risky sexual behaviors than uncircumcised men, suggesting that any protective effect of male circumcision on HIV acquisition is unlikely to be offset by an adverse behavioral impact.”

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  11. Circumcision, Fidelity More Effective HIV Prevention Methods Than Condoms, Abstinence, Researchers Say

    Article Date: 27 Apr 2006 – 1:00am (PDT)

    Promoting male circumcision and fidelity to one partner seems to be more effective at curbing the spread of HIV than promoting abstinence and condom use, USAID researcher and technical adviser Daniel Halperin said last week, the Chicago Tribune reports.
    Medical News Today Article

    Halperin would say or do anything to get those foreskins amputated. Including lying and twisting the truth. We know that education and condoms are effective because it has halted the spread of HIV in Eastern Uganda and Thailand, and that proper education programmes without the need for genital mutilation work.

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  12. Now that the “circumcision protects against HIV” meme has spread, people have ceased talking about infant urinary tract infections and penile cancer.

    Why do you think that is, Colugo?

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  13. For one thing, HIV transmission is a more urgent and widespread health problem than urinary tract infection and penile cancer.

    But for argument’s sake, let’s say that your implied suggestion is the case – namely, that some simply have advocacy of infant circumcision as their default position, and will cite whatever the latest studies are in support of it. They will just keep changing their tactics while their pro-circumcision stance never wavers.

    I would suggest that whether this is the case or not, others have the opposite position: they are opposed to infant circumcision no matter what. Regardless of what the latest studies indicate, regardless of the urgency of public health problems that the data indicates that circumcision will have beneficial impact on.

    I would not advocate infant circumcision if the balance of reliable evidence did not show that it had a beneficial health impact, especially for serious transmissible diseases like HIV/AIDS. (However, even so I would still not think that it was a crime, atrocity, or serious infringement on human rights.)

    Under what circumstances would you support routine circumcision of healthy, normal male infants in a population? Is it even hypothetically possible that, given that the data were adequately strong and convincing about a health benefit – especially concerning the epidemiology of a disease like HIV/AIDS – you would endorse the practice?

    Or, is it the case that you believe that the practice is so heinous that you would never condone it, no matter what?

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  14. Well Colugo, since you seem to have lost your case on that ad hominem attack, perhaps it could be turned around.

    I would ask you, if there were accurate fatality statistics for the number of little boys killed each year (through infections, MRSA, anaesthesia deaths during recircs etc. – never currently attributed to the original cause which was their circumcision), believed to be at least 200 in the States, if not more, and we know that hundreds of boys are killed and horribly maimed in South Africa every year (which, of course is why they made it illegal for anyone under 16), would you still be pushing for mass genital mutilation?

    It remains the case that there is NOTHING that circumcision will prevent or cure, even if there is something to the latest studies – which on the balance of evidence and reading the actual texts is NOT the case – there are other, non-invasive ways to achieve a better result ie. save more lives. All mass MGM is going to do is to divert much needed resources from other policies that are known to be effective, and which other countries have used to control their own epidemics.

    What is being proposed is, in effect, an invitation to start another genocide. It’s a disgrace, and an insult to the people of Africa that the will to use proven methods and policies that have worked in other countries simply isn’t there from the US. Why the obsession with genital mutilation, what is wrong with providing money for the same condoms and education that works in other countries?

    It’s the Africans’ misfortune that the people providing the “education” there are the likes of Halperin, Bailey, Brody etc. who can’t see anything past their own lack of foreskin and the obsessive desire to ensure that everyone else in the world doesn’t have one either.

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  15. Under what circumstances would you support routine circumcision of healthy, normal male infants in a population? Is it even hypothetically possible that, given that the data were adequately strong and convincing about a health benefit – especially concerning the epidemiology of a disease like HIV/AIDS – you would endorse the practice?

    For starters, clear evidence that there was a net benefit to the practice. This HIV claim is only about ten years old, and it’s only been seriously supported to any degree by data in the last few years. So why was it performed before then?

    Medical associations around the world have recognized that even largest claimed benefits of infant circumcision are no greater than the accepted risks of the procedure – and that’s with Western medicine, excluding the possibility that removal of a third of the penis alters the sexual experience, and taking the [i]largest[/i] claimed benefits.

    Or, is it the case that you believe that the practice is so heinous that you would never condone it, no matter what?

    I started out thinking that infant circumcision must be justified if it was so common, and went looking for data to counter the arguments of anti-circ advocates. It’s not there, and I changed my mind.

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  16. Even if we presume for a moment that the HIV claims are all totally accurate, and circumcision is a wonderful tool in fighting AIDS, a question arises:

    Given that the evidence that circumcision protects against other things is essentially nil, why were claims that it prevents penile cancer / urinary tract infections / etc. made so commonly? Why are diagnoses of adhesions and foreskin problems made so much more commonly in the US than in Europe? Why was the procedure routine in the first place? The principle of non-intervention requires that any medical intervention be withheld unless it can be shown that there are benefits that outweigh the risks and costs, and simple common sense suggests that surgical alterations of the genitalia is likely to be a bad thing, and at best should be avoided if possible.

    So how do we explain the presence of the routine procedure, Colugo?

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  17. May I add a slightly different viewpoint here. I was circumsized myself, and while I can’t compare what I would have been like uncircumsized, I have probably had more experience with different penises than most of the participants here, as a bisexual man who prefers oral sex and casual sex with guys. And from a strictly aesthetic viewpoint, I find circumsized males look, feel, smell, and taste better. I would be curious to hear from women and other gay and bi guys who are not monogamous how they feel about the question. Do you prefer men cut or uncut? It might not be the most important consideration, but it certainly should be a factor.

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  18. In my opinion, the most important viewpoint on the issue is that of the owner of the penis, not that of his parents or future sex partners.

    “Dear, let’s circumcise little Archibald. That way, his penis will taste so much better when that day comes.”

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  19. Prup aka Jim Benton: Do you prefer men cut or uncut?

    Most certainly uncut. I feel that sex with an intact man is more gentle, and they don’t have to pound away as hard to achieve an orgasm. I find sex with circumcised men more painful, and less satisfying. With intact men, you can enjoy the gliding action of the foreskin, and I’ve found that intact men can control their urge to orgasm much more effectively than circumcised men. I’ve personally never found a difference is smell or taste, and I find an intact penis more asthetically pleasing.

    But, I do not feel that circumcising an infant based on the parent’s sexual preferences is valid. The decision of look and functionality of the penis should be left up to the owner of said penis.

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  20. Colugo:Under what circumstances would you support routine circumcision of healthy, normal male infants in a population? Is it even hypothetically possible that, given that the data were adequately strong and convincing about a health benefit – especially concerning the epidemiology of a disease like HIV/AIDS – you would endorse the practice?

    Or, is it the case that you believe that the practice is so heinous that you would never condone it, no matter what?

    When there are less invasive means to treat the problems, I will not support any procedure. Condom use protects men and women much more than circumcision. I am also not fully convinced by the recent studies that have been published.

    Why do you support circumcision? Why do you believe that the amputation of a healthy child’s foreskin is a decision best left to parents?

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  21. Prup aka Jim Benton:
    Being female, totally heterosexual and rather partial to men I think whole penises are infintely preferable to a cut one. They feel better, they aren’t so rough, they’re a LOT more sensual, and they don’t rub you raw, don’t need any extra lubrication, and provide a much better experience.

    A whole penis also looks better when erect, there’s no scar, the glans is moist and glossy, it’s a much bigger turn on.

    As for tasting better, if we’re going to get into that, who wants a penis that tastes of whatever he last washed with, I’d rather it tasted like it is supposed to than the de-flavoured cut one.

    But besides all that, my (or anyone else’s) view on the sexual superiority of the whole penis is utterly immaterial. The status of a man’s penis should be decided by the owner of that penis and no-one else. Cutting up a baby to your own sexual preference is just perverted.

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  22. Regarding spotted dick, umm, sorry — regarding unwashed penis, my experience is that if someone wants to fellate you and finds your equipment grotty, then they will simply send you to the washbasin to do something about it before they go on with their intended business. And vice versa. It doesn’t call for infantile amputation.

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  23. “went looking for data to counter the arguments of anti-circ advocates. It’s not there, and I changed my mind.”

    And I assume that if evidence were to emerge that you found convincing, you would change your mind again, which is admirable. In principle, that is an objective and reason-based position. However, I would suggest that on this particular topic your revulsion at a perceived infringement on human rights has, unfortunately, clouded your judgment.

    The assertions about the benefits of circumcision for penile cancer, urinary tract infection, HPV transmission, etc. have not, in fact, been refuted, as shown by the CDC’s March 2007 statement linked to above. Are they not as strong or persuasive as some have previously claimed? Without my reviewing the history of these studies and associated public pronouncements, perhaps. But they’re not nonexistent, either.

    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/circumcision.htm

    The historical practice and religion-based reasons for male circumcision are being conflated with the recent studies on its effects on HIV transmission. Hypothetically, circumcision could be everything the anti-circumcision side says it is – but none of that changes the legitimacy of epidemiological studies of circumcision and HIV transmission.

    “When there are less invasive means to treat the problems, I will not support any procedure.”

    Even if they are less effective?

    I believe my suspicion about much of the anti-circ side is correct – many are simply to opposed to (especially pre-adult) circumcision no matter what; there is no dataset, no amount nor quality of evidence, no severity of public health crises, that can possibly sway them. They firmly believe that infant male circumcision is a heinous atrocity and/or they believe that the principle of individual right to bodily integrity outweighs all other considerations.

    Not only that, but I suspect that many of them are unhappy about rising trend of voluntary adult male circumcision in Africa because they know that this leads to newly-circumcised men having their preadult sons circumcised, as is already being documented in Africa.

    I am a heterosexual man who was circumcised in infancy. Like myself and Jim Benton, the vast majority of circumcised men do not feel that they have been traumatized, disfigured, or deprived of something. Go ahead and call it anecdotal or whatever you like – it’s a fact that can’t be wished away.

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  24. Colugo, you’ve lost the argument.

    Not only ad hominem attacks, you are also repeating yourself.

    Sadly, you didn’t need to tell us that you were circumcised in infancy, it’s blindingly obvious. The way you feel that you have to defend and promote it, is classic of men who have been cut, had no choice in the matter, and feel the need to validate what happened to them, by promoting it as a good thing, no matter what, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I feel sorry for you and pity for your loss, you don’t know what you’re missing.

    The foreskin is not “just a meaningless flap of skin”, as intact men know. The only way an intact man is ever going to part with his foreskin is if he is conned into it – which is why they do it in the States before he can object, and in Africa, by touting it as protection against AIDS.

    Why do you think that men do not have a right to bodily integrity?

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  25. There is a reason that the countries with the highest healthcare standards in the world do not routinely circumcize, and the ones with the lowest do, nor is it a coincidence that the places that do are both the most religious and the most backward.

    It’s not a coincidence that the European nations that don’t circumcize have lower rates of penile cancer than the US does. It’s not a coincidence that male infants in Europe do not show higher rates of urinary tract infections than those in the US. It’s not a coincidence that adhesions are diagnosed far more commonly in the US – it’s because the doctors here are frequently so grossly ignorant that they don’t recognize that the foreskin can detatch any time between infancy and puberty, and those who do know better want an excuse to perform the “wise and beneficial” procedure, and know that the parents won’t know any better.

    It’s not a coincidence that the American media presents foreskin as being gross and weird, and circumcision as not only harmless and health-beneficial but leading to an improved sex life. (Sex and the City had a whole episode dedicated to just this theme – the only woman of the group who thought foreskins were possibly useful was the slutty tramp.)

    You’re willfully ignorant, Colugo. That’s worse than being dumb by birth – it’s being dumb by choice.

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  26. Declaration of the First International Symposium on Circumcision
    Adopted March 3, 1989, Anaheim, California
    We recognize the inherent right of all human beings to an intact body. Without religious or racial prejudice, we affirm this basic human right.
    We recognize that the foreskin, clitoris and labia are normal, functional body parts.
    Parents and/or guardians do not have the right to consent to the surgical removal or modification of their children’s normal genitalia.
    Physicians and other health care providers have a responsibility to refuse to remove or mutilate normal body parts.
    The only persons who may consent to medically unnecessary procedures upon themselves are the individuals who have reached the age of consent (adulthood), and then only after being fully informed about the risks and benefits of the procedure.
    We categorically state that circumcision has unrecognized victims.
    In view of the serious physical and psychological consequences that we have witnessed in victims of circumcision, we hereby oppose the performance of a single additional unnecessary foreskin, clitoral, or labial amputation procedure.
    We oppose any further studies which involve the performance of the circumcision procedure upon unconsenting minors. We support any further studies which involve identification of the effects of circumcision.
    Physicians and other health�]care providers do have a responsibility to teach hygiene and the care of normal body parts and explain their normal anatomical and physiological development and function throughout life.
    We place the medical community on notice that it is being held accountable for misconstruing the scientific database available on human circumcision in the world today.
    Physicians who practice routine circumcisions are violating the first maxim of medical practice, “Primum Non Nocere,” “First, Do No Harm,” and anyone practicing genital mutilation is violating Article V of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment…”

    This is from the NOCIRC site at http://www.nocirc.org/

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  27. Anne: “Colugo, you’ve lost the argument.”

    I don’t think so. Commenters have confirmed that many on the anti-circ side are dogmatically opposed to circumcision (especially pre-adult circumcision, but they are unhappy about adult circumcision as well because it inevitably leads to the former) no matter what the evidence says. Their priorities are hopelessly skewed towards notions of bodily integrity despite the stakes for public health. Maybe I’m repeating myself, but no one can refute that, and it is not a trivial charge.

    “Ad hominem”? What about all of the comments accusing me of being indifferent to the evidence and merely having a pathological urge to have surgery performed on babies for its own sake? One problem with that “theory” is that the objective evidence favors the pro-circ, not the anti-circ, side. If any position is driven by emotion rather than reason it is anti-circumcision.

    In any case, even though I am outnumbered on this thread, I think my side is winning in the larger arena, despite the best efforts of Western anti-circumcision activists.

    New York Health Department Plans To Promote Male Circumcision To Help Reduce Spread of HIV
    Apr 05, 2007
    http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=44069

    “The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene plans to launch a campaign promoting male circumcision after the World Health Organization and UNAIDS last month recommended the procedure as a way to help reduce the spread of HIV, the New York Times reports.”

    Uganda plans countrywide circumcision
    http://allafrica.com/stories/200704040203.html

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  28. It’s noticeable that the only countries enthusiastically embracing this, are the ones that were already into genital mutilation. There is nothing new about anywhere in the States pushing circ, or indeed those poor saps in Africa who have been suckered into it by US propaganda, it’s the US obsession to cut up their kids; you won’t find any intact nations embracing this, their men know what they’ve got to lose – and they know circ doesn’t work because their HIV rates are lower than those in the US.

    Brazil (who are one of the intact nations with their HIV epidemic fully under control and dropping) have already told the WHO that their advice is dangerous, crazy and to take a hike, bet the other fully intact nations follow suit.

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  29. Again, Colugo, before HIV became an issue, how did people justify the procedure then? Are you prepared to and capable of defending those arguments? Do you even know what they are?

    In the regions in Africa where circumcision is commonplace, it has a very high complication rate. People develop major scarring and infections, lose their genitalia, and die because of it.

    And yet people keep doing it. Why do you think that is, Colugo? It’s almost as if once cutting off part of the penis becomes necessary to be recognized as a man, social forces are enough to continue to practice even against clear evidence that it’s harmful.

    There is anecdotal evidence both that circumcision in adults has no negative impact and has negative impact. Have you considered the possibility that it might have both in different people? How have you ruled out this possibility?

    Present some actual arguments.

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  30. Colugo, this is from your link: “The studies in Africa were conducted among heterosexual men, and men who are most at risk of contracting HIV in New York are MSM, injection drug users and their sexual partners.”

    How is this going to help at risk men in the US? The studies show no evidence that circumcision decreases the risk of transmission for homosexual men or for women. Also, circumcision certainly isn’t going to prevent IV drug users from contracting HIV.

    What evidence other than the HIV studies do you have to prove that circumcision is a valid choice for parents to make for their children? If studies showed that female circumcision lowered the risk of contracting HIV, would you support that? If not, why should baby boys be the only onews giving up sensitive tissue for the cause? Why discriminate? If cutting up one sex’s genitals is mutilation, then cutting up the other’s is too.

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  31. Studies do show that female circ lowers the risk of getting HIV.

    Abstract

    But that one has been quietly buried. Why is that? Could it be that this has not been followed up because US cutters shudder at the idea of cutting women? It’s all down to US hegemony. FGM is perfectly acceptable in most African countries, they already do it in many countries, and it has been shown to lower the rate of HIV in those women, BUT it isn’t acceptable to the same Americans that happily cut up their boys for whatever fashionable reason happens to be current.

    It’s a sickening double standard. Few Americans have foreskins and they refuse to recognise the harm it has caused them, indeed, are now trying to convince the rest of the world (rather like Aesop’s fox without a tail) that they don’t need a foreskin and are better off without one, so everyone will stop pitying American men (or laughing at them).

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  32. I recently had my son circumcised after much thought, research, debate, inner turmoil, and conversation with my wife. A very tough decision that I still question, and will likely question until the day he is able to tell me how he feels about his penis.

    However, this decision is no different from the thousands of decisions I have and will make that will undoubtedly affect his life forever. No doubt there will be many decisions I make for my children that turn out to be wrong or that they don’t like (neighborhood, vaccinations, schools, medicines, activities, discipline, doctors, organic, antibiotics, going out alone, etc). Last night I was up with my daughter with a 103 fever, debating whether we need to take her to the ER. We opted to wait till this morning to go to the doctor. (Wrong/ right??? We will see). When we get the prescription for an antibiotic, which is how all Dr�s visits end, another discussion will be triggered about whether we want to give them antibiotics, and so on, and so on. All these decisions have a potentially profound effect in their lives. These days even letting them play in the yard is a high stakes decision.

    Good parents avoid being “culture cattle” by seeking as much information, talking, crossing your fingers you’ve done right by your child, and apologizing when you have not.

    I argue that WHAT you decide for your children (although important), is less important than HOW you decided.

    This debate is helpful. I am forwarding it to a friend who will soon make a decision about his newborn’s foreskin.

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  33. Martin! Removing the penis, especially of fertile men, is a no,no! However, removal of the testicles is a time honored thing, which supplied the Catholic church with singing castrati for centuries. Furthermore, castrati not only lose their libido, but also most of their anger. Read the recent NYT article by a castrato at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/27/health/27case.html?ei=5070&en=2d97c1aa7a351597&ex=1176004800&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1175874687-vymk914tlfQPzZgzbHu2hg

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  34. There is NO reason to remove a child’s foreskin at birth.

    It is NOT a decision that a parent needs to make.

    It isn’t like feeding them, clothing them, deciding which schools they go to, giving them antibiotics when they’re ill, or other parental decisions that HAVE to be made whilst they are still children. A child’s penis needs its protective foreskin while they are in nappies (diapers) to protect the glans and urethra from urine and faeces (10% of circumcised children end up with meatal stenosis and the need for further surgery), and from rubbing on clothing. Then there are the “adhesions” that 79% of circumcised babies develop, which doctors keep (erroneously) insisting must be ripped apart, causing more excrutiating pain and scarring. There is absolutely NO REASON to remove it in infancy at all, and a LOT of reasons to leave it exactly where it is.

    What you do when you remove a baby’s foreskin is to impose your personal preferences on his body, which will stay with him for the rest of his life. If he wants his foreskin back, tough. You have just removed his personal choice about his own body. You have removed the most sensitive, most richly enervated, part of his penis, why?

    However, if you leave it alone (and that means not messing with his penis at all – you just wipe it like a finger to clean in infancy, and never retract it for any reason) then he has the choice when he grows up. In fact almost all intact men choose to keep their foreskins, an adult circumcision is extremely rare in intact countries. That should tell you something.

    Rick: You made a VERY bad decision there. What gives you the right to impinge on your son’s sex life (and that of his partner) when he is an adult?

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  35. P.S.
    You do know that a baby’s foreskin is actually fused to the glans, and doesn’t separate for years, sometimes not until puberty, don’t you? Nothing is going to get under there, and it doesn’t need “cleaning” internally.

    They have to forcibly rip the foreskin off the glans using a blunt metal instrument to be able to insert the clamp to crush and cut it off. It’s barbaric, gruesome, and excrutiatingly painful, and I’ll never understand how supposedly civilised people manage to somehow convince themselves that this archaic mutilation is acceptable behaviour for the 21st century.

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  36. Anne, when people are confronted with two statements that contradict each other, the outcome tends to be one of the following possibilities:

    1) They conclude that the first statement is correct and the second one incorrect.

    2) They conclude that the first statement is incorrect and the second one correct.

    When confronted with evidence against a strongly-held belief, most people disregard the evidence. People are certain that they’re civilized and intelligent people. Since they’re intelligent and civilized people, their decisions to surgically remove parts of infants’ penises must be humane and medically necessary.

    The more emotional the issue makes people, and the more obviously wrong they are, the more ego defense they’ll put in place.

    It is worth noting that societies in which circumcision was once common but is now fading (Great Britain and Canada are the prime examples), it wasn’t any amount of enlightenment that was responsible. Instead, it seems to be the case that the movement to public healthcare caused only truly necessary procedures to be paid for by insurance, and many people didn’t feel the need to spend hundreds of dollars for circumcision.

    It’s still seen as culturally acceptable, but as a general practice, it’s gone into a major decline. Maybe something similar will one day happen in America. I can only hope.

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  37. Caledonian:

    “Maybe something similar will one day happen in America. I can only hope.”

    This is a bit of an aside, but I’m curious: would you favor a British or Canadian-style healthcare system in the US in order to reduce the number of circumcisions?

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  38. This is a bit of an aside, but I’m curious: would you favor a British or Canadian-style healthcare system in the US in order to reduce the number of circumcisions?

    Are you presenting strawmen intentionally, or did you really fail your reading comprehension so spectacularly that you think I want to restructure our healthcare system for the sole purpose of reducing circumcisions?

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  39. On a more serious vein than my previous post, since circumcision is now being touted as a panacea for AIDS, I would like to point out that a number of scientists, starting with Dr Peter Duesberg and including Nobelists, believe that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but instead is a collection of unrelated diseases, caused, among other things, by the poisonous drugs promoted as a cure by the pharmaceutical companies & their allies. Try http://www.duesberg.com/ , http://rethinkingaids.com.93.seekdotnet.com/ , and http://www.virusmyth.net/aids/ .

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  40. Did you read this study before making your decision Rick?

    Abstract
    “OBJECTIVE

    To map the fine-touch pressure thresholds of the adult penis in circumcised and uncircumcised men, and to compare the two populations.
    SUBJECTS AND METHODS

    Adult male volunteers with no history of penile pathology or diabetes were evaluated with a Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test to map the fine-touch pressure thresholds of the penis. Circumcised and uncircumcised men were compared using mixed models for repeated data, controlling for age, type of underwear worn, time since last ejaculation, ethnicity, country of birth, and level of education.
    RESULTS

    The glans of the uncircumcised men had significantly lower mean (sem) pressure thresholds than that of the circumcised men, at 0.161 (0.078) g (P = 0.040) when controlled for age, location of measurement, type of underwear worn, and ethnicity. There were significant differences in pressure thresholds by location on the penis (P

    CONCLUSIONS

    The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis. 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. Circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.” (my emphasis)

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  41. Men have been brain-washed by the vast pro-glans lobby , that would have us believe the glans is by far the most important part of the penis. Intuitively, this makes sense. but In fact, the glans is insenitive to fine touch, pin-prick, heat and cold. Touch it with a finger tip; compare with the back of hand or face. Prick it with a pin if you feel brave. Next test: to find the ‘ridged band of the preuce’: look for the ring of corrugated mucosa just inside the tip of the prepuce: it is pink-brown or brown-pink depending on skin color. Next: gently rub finger tip across the ridged band: compare with glans. Or play your warm shower on the exposed glans and ridged band and compare sensations. Next: stretch ridged band gently but quickly: note reflex (non-voluntary) contraction of bulb muscles around the root of penis,just behind scrotum and in front of anus. (Voluntary bulb muscle contraction is used to expel the last dribs of urine). In short, stretchihng of the ridged band, as in sexual intercoure, trigger a ‘sexual reflex’ for deep erogenous sensation and ejaculation, both thanks to bulb muscles. If continued, the same reflex helps sustain erection, Next: never mind, you get my drift. Just remember, circumcision goes beyond pain and ethics etc into serious sexual function. John

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