Advocates of a ban on circumcision have introduced ballot measures in San Francisco and Santa Monica, and are resubmitting a failed bill to the Massachusetts legislature.
If you look at their literature and their arguments — which constantly make analogies to the barbaric custom of female genital mutilation — you will conclude that this group is not just crazy as it’s been portrayed. It’s evil.
For starters, comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation, which does massive physical and emotional damage to its victims, is beyond absurd. Male circumcision at best has health benefits, and at worst is harmless.
Further, the comparison trivializes female mutilation. If you want to know what that is really like, read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, Infidel. I guarantee that you won’t be able to put it out of your mind, even if you aren’t female.
They also believe that sexual satisfaction is decreased by circumcision. Note that it is clearly impossible to empirically test this hypothesis. You certainly can’t do an A/B comparison!
Although studies have shown that circumcised men are less likely to be infected with HIV, they quote a 1999 study that they say contradicts this. That study concluded that it is not the presence or absence of the foreskin that is correlated with HIV infection, but rather genital ulcer disease. Fine — but genital ulcer disease is more common in uncircumcised men! At most, this study tells us that this kind of analysis is more complicated than it looks. This is also the conclusion of a 2006 study which they wrongly cite as evidence that circumcision does not reduce HIV infection.
Their main argument, other than the specious analogy with female mutilation, seems to be that the surgery is ‘cosmetic’ or based on religion (i.e., superstition), and should be elective. It’s like giving a child an obligatory tattoo, they say. And they conclude that it should be up to the child to decide, when he reaches majority.
The fact is that a lot of the effects that parents have on their children are permanent, and some of them, unlike circumcision, are actually harmful. Regularly giving children soda to drink with meals rots teeth and brings on diabetes and behavioral disorders. Should parents be forbidden to give their kids soda? There has to be a limit on state invasion into parental authority.
Reading the material of the so-called “intactivists,” I find a surreal quality which makes me wonder: is it all a spoof? Are they just trying to see how high they can get ‘religious fanatics’ to jump when they pull our chains (OK, mixed metaphor)? If they hadn’t been doing this since at least 2003, I would wonder.
Here is a photo of Matthew Hess, leader of the movement, holding a device that supposedly can be used to create a foreskin on a circumcised penis (in the words of the immortal Dave Barry, I Am Not Making This Up):
Very funny. But plenty of idiots take it seriously. You can actually buy one of these devices. There are ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures at the site. Unbelievable.
Probably in order to get attention, Hess and friends have attacked one group who are almost 100% behind circumcision for their children, the Jews. Well, it worked. Their antisemitic comic book, “Foreskin Man,” has generated a great deal of anger:
It is not an excuse that Hess and his friends can claim to be too young to have been regular readers of Der Stürmer. This comic book, with its depictions of vicious Jewish villains, its suggestion of dark sexual depravity (quote: “Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy”), the contrast to the clean-cut Aryan superhero could have been the work of Hitler’s propagandists:
The arguments from the “intactivists” are specious, indeed even stupidly specious. The comparison to female genital mutilation is vile. I don’t know what their agenda really is, but it’s clear, even if the comic book didn’t spit it into our faces, that an attack on one of the basic rites of Judaism is essentially antisemitic.
The introduction of this kind of image, even as an attention-getting stunt, is remarkable. It shows that public antisemitism is becoming permissible in American culture, in a way that it hasn’t been since WWII. Can you imagine similar images directed at African-Americans, homosexuals, Asians? Not today — but Jews are fair game.