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    Update 2: No longer accepting comments on this post. Please stop submitting. Thanks. Update: Due to the vociferous and emotive nature of many comments, I am not publishing over half submitted on this post. Just so you know your chances... One thing that I have read repeatedly is that circumcision rates in the United States...
  • @Razib Khan
    But I don't see how choosing your partner based on their genitals can lead to a lasting relationship.


    to be fair i long ago eliminated ~50 percent of the human population based on their genital state.

    LOL

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  • @LA
    I bet you (and most women) would be prettier down there with some of those meat flaps cut off. Maybe I should do that to my daughter! Enough parents start doing it, and in a few decades, men will start preferring it!

    In the West, cosmetic surgery on female genitalia to make them more ‘neat’ has definitely become an issue, reportedly because men prefer it.

    I don’t know about that – the only thought I have is that it might make riding a bicycle more comfortable, but if I was a girl I think I’d want to experiment with seat width and configuration, riding angle and height above the pedals quite a bit before contemplating surgery on a very sensitive and private part of my anatomy. If the bike doesn’t fit right, it’s the wrong bike, not because your anatomy needs surgical ‘correction’.

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  • @Robert Ford
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/health/nonsurgical-circumcision-device-will-be-tested-to-help-curb-aids.html?_r=1&ref=health&

    Oh no! They look like the rubber rings we used to put around the testicles of sheep to make them rot and drop off.

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  • Extend the data past 1999 and you will see declines in all regions. Your data is almost 15 years old!

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  • @prometheus
    Your argument assumes the premise that circumcision must necessarily be done as an adult if not as a child. That's clearly not the case when over 80% of the world's males never choose to be circumcised. As you say, sensitivity loss is extremely hard to measure, but that is only tangential to the main issue. It is clearly unethical to cut off a healthy body part from someone without their express consent. There's no good reason not to simply postpone the "decision" until the child is an adult.

    1) My argument does not assume that premise. You need to work on your reading skills.
    2) “It is clearly unethical…” “There’s no good reason…” – Really? Glad you cleared that up. I guess when you are so certain of your own positions, it is not necessary to be able to read and accurately interpret someone else’s argument.

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  • Circumcision alters sex dramatically. His body, his decision.

    Most of the world (95% of non-Muslims) does not circumcise.

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  • @Rebecca Fine
    The new 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics statement said that it is up to parents to decide whether their boys should be circumcised.

    For years, Egyptian doctors believed parents should decide what to do with their daughters’ clitorises. Your thoughts on that, Rebecca?

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  • @Rebecca Fine
    European women are free to prefer uncircumcised men, and American women are free to prefer circumcised men. There are different cultural preferences involved. There's not necessarily a right or a wrong. The circumcised penis IS cleaner and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.

    I bet you (and most women) would be prettier down there with some of those meat flaps cut off. Maybe I should do that to my daughter! Enough parents start doing it, and in a few decades, men will start preferring it!

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    • Replies: @Sandgroper
    In the West, cosmetic surgery on female genitalia to make them more 'neat' has definitely become an issue, reportedly because men prefer it.

    I don't know about that - the only thought I have is that it might make riding a bicycle more comfortable, but if I was a girl I think I'd want to experiment with seat width and configuration, riding angle and height above the pedals quite a bit before contemplating surgery on a very sensitive and private part of my anatomy. If the bike doesn't fit right, it's the wrong bike, not because your anatomy needs surgical 'correction'.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Neuroconservative
    On a separate note: Many people argue in favor of leaving the choice to the individual once he becomes an adult. But the effects of brain plasticity in neurodevelopment is rarely considered in this line of argument. Thus, it is often argued that the foreskin contains X number of nerve endings that are lost. But this is only directly relevant in the case of adult circumcision, which I would imagine would be a big loss of sensation. However, in the case of infant circumcision, it is likely that the potential sensory pathways are remapped to remaining tissue (ie, the glans). This hypothesis is difficult to test, but consistent with other things we know about neurodevelopment. If true, this would constitute an argument against adult circ.

    Your argument assumes the premise that circumcision must necessarily be done as an adult if not as a child. That’s clearly not the case when over 80% of the world’s males never choose to be circumcised. As you say, sensitivity loss is extremely hard to measure, but that is only tangential to the main issue. It is clearly unethical to cut off a healthy body part from someone without their express consent. There’s no good reason not to simply postpone the “decision” until the child is an adult.

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    • Replies: @Neuroconservative
    1) My argument does not assume that premise. You need to work on your reading skills.
    2) "It is clearly unethical..." "There's no good reason..." - Really? Glad you cleared that up. I guess when you are so certain of your own positions, it is not necessary to be able to read and accurately interpret someone else's argument.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • On a separate note: Many people argue in favor of leaving the choice to the individual once he becomes an adult. But the effects of brain plasticity in neurodevelopment is rarely considered in this line of argument. Thus, it is often argued that the foreskin contains X number of nerve endings that are lost. But this is only directly relevant in the case of adult circumcision, which I would imagine would be a big loss of sensation. However, in the case of infant circumcision, it is likely that the potential sensory pathways are remapped to remaining tissue (ie, the glans). This hypothesis is difficult to test, but consistent with other things we know about neurodevelopment. If true, this would constitute an argument against adult circ.

    Read More
    • Replies: @prometheus
    Your argument assumes the premise that circumcision must necessarily be done as an adult if not as a child. That's clearly not the case when over 80% of the world's males never choose to be circumcised. As you say, sensitivity loss is extremely hard to measure, but that is only tangential to the main issue. It is clearly unethical to cut off a healthy body part from someone without their express consent. There's no good reason not to simply postpone the "decision" until the child is an adult.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • According to the chart you linked, South Carolina is 81% circ but North Carolina is only 52% — what could explain that discrepancy? If correct, that is fascinating.
    There is clearly some correlation with Hispanic demography (e.g., West Virginia has lowest Hisp rate and highest circ rate), but so many other factors are clearly at work. Western states are considered to be more libertarian, and I suspect there is some correlation with attitudes on marijuana and euthanasia, for which Washington state is at the forefront.

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  • This is super interesting. I live in CA and none of my boys got circumcised. I thought this was a national trend.

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  • @Anonymous
    1. ...there are data in the scientific mainstream demonstrating that HIV infection is more likely when a male is uncircumcised...
    2. ...i'm not certain that #1 can be generalized to all parasites in all men...
    3. ...as a female, I prefer a partner who is circumcised...primarily, but, not exclusively, for aesthetic reasons...granted, this is a learned response...
    4. ...re: permitting the male to decide for himself when older, circumcision is a very unpleasant operation that most males would not want to endure...
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbjones1943
    Blog: http://vertebratesocialbehavior.blogspot.com

    I will try again: the evidence that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection or other STDs has been deemed too weak, at least in a “Western context” by a recent review co-authored by European, Canadian and Australian pediatrics. Search for “cultural bias circumcision” on pubmed if interested.

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  • @Razib Khan
    yes, seems like the large effects are generally in non-developed contexts. i might be persuaded if it seems japan is suffering in comparison to s. korea (uncirc vs. circ).
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    • Replies: @Sandgroper
    Oh no! They look like the rubber rings we used to put around the testicles of sheep to make them rot and drop off.
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  • @Anonymous
    1. ...there are data in the scientific mainstream demonstrating that HIV infection is more likely when a male is uncircumcised...
    2. ...i'm not certain that #1 can be generalized to all parasites in all men...
    3. ...as a female, I prefer a partner who is circumcised...primarily, but, not exclusively, for aesthetic reasons...granted, this is a learned response...
    4. ...re: permitting the male to decide for himself when older, circumcision is a very unpleasant operation that most males would not want to endure...
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbjones1943
    Blog: http://vertebratesocialbehavior.blogspot.com

    I find #3 and #4 insulting to manhood. Just because you have a preference it does not mean that it has to be enforced onto infants.

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  • @Rebecca Fine
    European women are free to prefer uncircumcised men, and American women are free to prefer circumcised men. There are different cultural preferences involved. There's not necessarily a right or a wrong. The circumcised penis IS cleaner and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.

    Either can be the same amount of clean if they are cleaned, which I guess is an issue in pockets of American culture where being uncut is uncommon and men might not know how to clean themselves properly. It really shouldn’t be an issue if a man keeps himself clean.

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  • I wonder if it becomes a problem in a culture where it’s uncommon because maybe mothers and fathers, who might be cut, don’t know how to educate their sons about washing properly.

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  • But I don’t see how choosing your partner based on their genitals can lead to a lasting relationship.

    to be fair i long ago eliminated ~50 percent of the human population based on their genital state.

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    • Replies: @Sandgroper
    LOL
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  • @Rebecca Fine
    A valid point. The decrease in the national circumcision rate comes predominantly from the low rates in the West. In the Midwest, South and Northeast, they remain very high, and the majority of boys continue to be circumcised in most states. Thus circumcision for boys remains the normative practice in most states and will continue to be a common practice for many years to come.

    My previous response to this seems to have not passed moderation :( Briefly, I believe that Americans should be smarter than that. And Americans have been able to change things that needed to be changed. For example, here in Seattle there is a strong green movement towards environmental awareness. Once people will more openly talk about circumcision, things will change.

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  • @Robert Ford
    I thought the benefits were only for third worlders

    yes, seems like the large effects are generally in non-developed contexts. i might be persuaded if it seems japan is suffering in comparison to s. korea (uncirc vs. circ).

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    • Replies: @Robert Ford
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/health/nonsurgical-circumcision-device-will-be-tested-to-help-curb-aids.html?_r=1&ref=health&
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  • @Anonymous
    Circumcision should be a personal choice when the person is
    old enough to decide for themselves. I was circumcised as a infant and wish I
    wasn't. Just let it be your son's decision.

    fwiw, that’s my position, since it is not easy to reverse.

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  • @Rebecca Fine
    The other key point I would mention is the most recent AAP report on the issue. A year ago the new 2012 policy statement from the AAP stated that the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks. Perhaps a reference to it above or a link could provide further information.

    I thought the benefits were only for third worlders

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    yes, seems like the large effects are generally in non-developed contexts. i might be persuaded if it seems japan is suffering in comparison to s. korea (uncirc vs. circ).
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Rebecca Fine
    The new 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics statement said that it is up to parents to decide whether their boys should be circumcised.

    The AAP may say that, but more and more unhappily circumcise men disagree with it.

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  • @Anonymous
    1. ...there are data in the scientific mainstream demonstrating that HIV infection is more likely when a male is uncircumcised...
    2. ...i'm not certain that #1 can be generalized to all parasites in all men...
    3. ...as a female, I prefer a partner who is circumcised...primarily, but, not exclusively, for aesthetic reasons...granted, this is a learned response...
    4. ...re: permitting the male to decide for himself when older, circumcision is a very unpleasant operation that most males would not want to endure...
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbjones1943
    Blog: http://vertebratesocialbehavior.blogspot.com

    it’s commonly endured in many cultures. have you studied this to make that assertion, or is that your intuition?

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    1. …there are data in the scientific mainstream demonstrating that HIV infection is more likely when a male is uncircumcised…
    2. …i’m not certain that #1 can be generalized to all parasites in all men…
    3. …as a female, I prefer a partner who is circumcised…primarily, but, not exclusively, for aesthetic reasons…granted, this is a learned response…
    4. …re: permitting the male to decide for himself when older, circumcision is a very unpleasant operation that most males would not want to endure…
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbjones1943
    Blog: http://vertebratesocialbehavior.blogspot.com

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    it's commonly endured in many cultures. have you studied this to make that assertion, or is that your intuition?
    , @Gianluca Interlandi
    I find #3 and #4 insulting to manhood. Just because you have a preference it does not mean that it has to be enforced onto infants.
    , @Gianluca Interlandi
    I will try again: the evidence that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection or other STDs has been deemed too weak, at least in a "Western context" by a recent review co-authored by European, Canadian and Australian pediatrics. Search for "cultural bias circumcision" on pubmed if interested.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • The new 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics statement said that it is up to parents to decide whether their boys should be circumcised.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Hugh7
    The AAP may say that, but more and more unhappily circumcise men disagree with it.
    , @LA
    For years, Egyptian doctors believed parents should decide what to do with their daughters' clitorises. Your thoughts on that, Rebecca?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Razib Khan
    basically

    The other key point I would mention is the most recent AAP report on the issue. A year ago the new 2012 policy statement from the AAP stated that the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks. Perhaps a reference to it above or a link could provide further information.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Robert Ford
    I thought the benefits were only for third worlders
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Roger
    First, I am not a doctor. My opinion is based only on my own experience, and my opinion is that removing the foreskin is just good preventive medicine.
    My first son was born in the mid 1980's in Vermont. My wife had a female ob-gyn and we had female teachers for all the birthing classes we went to before my son was born. They were unanimous in their opinion that circumcision was cosmetic only and there was no medical reason to perform one. They were very strongly anti-circumcision. So we did not have our first son circumcised.

    While he was still an infant, he started developing some problems around the tip and our mail pediatrician said that his penis needed better cleaning at bath time and showed my wife how to do it. During a bath the foreskin apparently was retracted a little too far and became tight around the tip of the penis. I got a frantic phone call at work from my wife while my baby was screaming in the background.

    I met her at the pediatrician's office where he thought it was a simple problem he could fix until he saw it. My infant son's penis was swollen and purple. The doctor and I both jumped back at the site of it. He sent us directly to the emergency room and told me "It's still warm, I don't think he'll lose it". LOSE IT????!!!!!

    My son had an emergency circumcision and was fine. The biggest concern of the surgeon was that he had already eaten and if he had a reaction to the anesthetic, food in his stomach could be a problem.

    Later, the urologist told me that he often saw problems in uncircumcised males that required emergency circumcisions. Sometimes when they were much older, almost adults. His opinion was that circumcisions should be done normally to prevent the possibility of problems later on.

    The problem seemed to me to be that circumcision was something typically done by the ob-gyn, and the female ob-gyn doctors were reluctant to do it right after birth because it was done without anesthetic. They never saw the emergency problems that can happen later. The urologists see those.

    When we had my second son and the birthing class teachers and doctors began telling people not to have their sons circumcised I would stand up and tell them what happened in no uncertain terms. If the rate of circumcision is much higher in the northeast U.S., I may be a small part of the reason.

    Some pain for your infant, that they won't even remember later, can prevent much more serious problems in the future. How likely are those problems? I don't know, but in my opinion keeping the foreskin is not worth the risk.

    OK, to be fair here, you were given some very incorrect information on how to properly wash your son. A foreskin should never ever be forcibly retracted before it does so on its own. Children’s foreskins are physically attached to the glans and retracting it can cause damage. In time, they retract on their own. If nothing is forced, then there is little that can go wrong. Arguing that circumcisions must be done in order to prevent injury from incorrect care is like arguing that pinky toes should be removed because it hurts when you stub them.

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  • @Razib Khan
    and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.


    this sort of assertion of a subjective opinion as objective fact is going to result in angry follow up comments. thanks for that.

    That is exactly mentioned in my above comment. Most people judge thing from their own perspective while refusing to understand or see from different perspective.
    Quite a lot of human conflicts are due to such cultural encapsulation.

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  • @Rebecca Fine
    European women are free to prefer uncircumcised men, and American women are free to prefer circumcised men. There are different cultural preferences involved. There's not necessarily a right or a wrong. The circumcised penis IS cleaner and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.

    and more attractive in some ways, that’s why many women prefer it. Let’s not try to pretend otherwise.

    this sort of assertion of a subjective opinion as objective fact is going to result in angry follow up comments. thanks for that.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AG
    That is exactly mentioned in my above comment. Most people judge thing from their own perspective while refusing to understand or see from different perspective.
    Quite a lot of human conflicts are due to such cultural encapsulation.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Rebecca Fine
    I think you misunderstood the point of the article. What Khan is saying is that circumcision remains the norm for boys in most parts of the U.S. and that the practice has not become much less common except in the Western states.

    basically

    Read More
    • Replies: @Rebecca Fine
    The other key point I would mention is the most recent AAP report on the issue. A year ago the new 2012 policy statement from the AAP stated that the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks. Perhaps a reference to it above or a link could provide further information.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Melissa
    An acquaintance of mine here in Chicago who was born in Washington and has lived in the Midwest for much of his adolescence and adult life told me he had his newborn son circumcised reluctantly because of discrimination he faced as an uncut man in the Midwest. Doesn't surprise me. When I hear women talking about it in Chicago it's almost always about how "gross" it is and they seem pretty ignorant about it. Based on the stuff they say it's amazing anyone in Europe ever has sex because they must smell so bad, etc.

    European women are free to prefer uncircumcised men, and American women are free to prefer circumcised men. There are different cultural preferences involved. There’s not necessarily a right or a wrong. The circumcised penis IS cleaner and more attractive in some ways, that’s why many women prefer it. Let’s not try to pretend otherwise.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.


    this sort of assertion of a subjective opinion as objective fact is going to result in angry follow up comments. thanks for that.

    , @Melissa
    Either can be the same amount of clean if they are cleaned, which I guess is an issue in pockets of American culture where being uncut is uncommon and men might not know how to clean themselves properly. It really shouldn't be an issue if a man keeps himself clean.
    , @LA
    I bet you (and most women) would be prettier down there with some of those meat flaps cut off. Maybe I should do that to my daughter! Enough parents start doing it, and in a few decades, men will start preferring it!
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • I think you misunderstood the point of the article. What Khan is saying is that circumcision remains the norm for boys in most parts of the U.S. and that the practice has not become much less common except in the Western states.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    basically
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • A valid point. The decrease in the national circumcision rate comes predominantly from the low rates in the West. In the Midwest, South and Northeast, they remain very high, and the majority of boys continue to be circumcised in most states. Thus circumcision for boys remains the normative practice in most states and will continue to be a common practice for many years to come.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Gianluca Interlandi
    My previous response to this seems to have not passed moderation :( Briefly, I believe that Americans should be smarter than that. And Americans have been able to change things that needed to be changed. For example, here in Seattle there is a strong green movement towards environmental awareness. Once people will more openly talk about circumcision, things will change.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Circumcision should be a personal choice when the person is
    old enough to decide for themselves. I was circumcised as a infant and wish I
    wasn’t. Just let it be your son’s decision.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    fwiw, that's my position, since it is not easy to reverse.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • First, I am not a doctor. My opinion is based only on my own experience, and my opinion is that removing the foreskin is just good preventive medicine.
    My first son was born in the mid 1980′s in Vermont. My wife had a female ob-gyn and we had female teachers for all the birthing classes we went to before my son was born. They were unanimous in their opinion that circumcision was cosmetic only and there was no medical reason to perform one. They were very strongly anti-circumcision. So we did not have our first son circumcised.

    While he was still an infant, he started developing some problems around the tip and our mail pediatrician said that his penis needed better cleaning at bath time and showed my wife how to do it. During a bath the foreskin apparently was retracted a little too far and became tight around the tip of the penis. I got a frantic phone call at work from my wife while my baby was screaming in the background.

    I met her at the pediatrician’s office where he thought it was a simple problem he could fix until he saw it. My infant son’s penis was swollen and purple. The doctor and I both jumped back at the site of it. He sent us directly to the emergency room and told me “It’s still warm, I don’t think he’ll lose it”. LOSE IT????!!!!!

    My son had an emergency circumcision and was fine. The biggest concern of the surgeon was that he had already eaten and if he had a reaction to the anesthetic, food in his stomach could be a problem.

    Later, the urologist told me that he often saw problems in uncircumcised males that required emergency circumcisions. Sometimes when they were much older, almost adults. His opinion was that circumcisions should be done normally to prevent the possibility of problems later on.

    The problem seemed to me to be that circumcision was something typically done by the ob-gyn, and the female ob-gyn doctors were reluctant to do it right after birth because it was done without anesthetic. They never saw the emergency problems that can happen later. The urologists see those.

    When we had my second son and the birthing class teachers and doctors began telling people not to have their sons circumcised I would stand up and tell them what happened in no uncertain terms. If the rate of circumcision is much higher in the northeast U.S., I may be a small part of the reason.

    Some pain for your infant, that they won’t even remember later, can prevent much more serious problems in the future. How likely are those problems? I don’t know, but in my opinion keeping the foreskin is not worth the risk.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    OK, to be fair here, you were given some very incorrect information on how to properly wash your son. A foreskin should never ever be forcibly retracted before it does so on its own. Children's foreskins are physically attached to the glans and retracting it can cause damage. In time, they retract on their own. If nothing is forced, then there is little that can go wrong. Arguing that circumcisions must be done in order to prevent injury from incorrect care is like arguing that pinky toes should be removed because it hurts when you stub them.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • That a circumcised penis is cleaner than an intact one is just a myth. The foreskin has a self-cleaning mechanism. It contains muscles that contract the foreskin and expel anything that gets into the foreskin. An intact penis is more hygienic and cleaner that a cut one. A circumcised penis is always in contact with underwear and any dirt, sweat or urine trapped in there. If you are concerned about hygiene you should not circumcise. Americans circumcise out of ignorance, shallowness and gullibility.

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  • AG says:

    Well, you can see how powerful brainwash can do for your judgement if you do not have analytic mind.
    Circumcision like foot binding or tatoo or body piecing can viewed as beauty or disgusting body disfigurement, depending on brainwashing effect.
    Also smell of parmigiano cheese is the same as human vomit in smell test. Like it or hate it depending on suggestion what you are smelling.

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  • An acquaintance of mine here in Chicago who was born in Washington and has lived in the Midwest for much of his adolescence and adult life told me he had his newborn son circumcised reluctantly because of discrimination he faced as an uncut man in the Midwest. Doesn’t surprise me. When I hear women talking about it in Chicago it’s almost always about how “gross” it is and they seem pretty ignorant about it. Based on the stuff they say it’s amazing anyone in Europe ever has sex because they must smell so bad, etc.

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    • Replies: @Rebecca Fine
    European women are free to prefer uncircumcised men, and American women are free to prefer circumcised men. There are different cultural preferences involved. There's not necessarily a right or a wrong. The circumcised penis IS cleaner and more attractive in some ways, that's why many women prefer it. Let's not try to pretend otherwise.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • I have nothing to add other than that is really weird to me. I never would’ve guessed states differed that much.

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  • The New York Times has a piece on an update to the American Academy of Pediatrics position statement on circumcision (shifting toward a more pro-circumcision position of neutrality). In the United States the rates of circumcision for infant boys has gone from 80-90% to ~50% (there are regional variations, so only a minority of boys...
  • @37 – There has been certain past discussion in anthropological circles about why the hell they went in for such extensive and creative mutilation. One theory was that it was intended as a form of birth control, which truly boggles the mind. However, I read an account by one anthropologist who asked some Aboriginal guys in the north west why the hell they did it, and he recorded that they said “To make it more beautiful.” *speechless*

    I don’t know, but imagine the subject is probably now politically taboo. I haven’t seen it discussed for a long time now.

    With some of these cultural things, I think often people really don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, like the doctor telling you she needed consent from both parents *not* to perform unnecessary surgery on an infant incapable of giving consent and without anaesthetic. I got done allegedly because Australian troops in the trenches in France during the Great War had problems with personal hygiene. I imagine they might, but I was born in 1949, for God’s sake – doctors just kept doing it because no one told them that no one was fighting trench warfare any more and that they didn’t need to, and most parents didn’t think to intervene, I suppose because they were lesser people than the Noongar and the Irish.

    Anyway, the Noongar were too smart to fall for that – which is kind of interesting in itself, that some bizarre pointless culture should spread Australia-wide like that but that it should be resisted successfully by one regional group.

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  • @36,

    Yikes – that takes genital mutilation to another more grotesque level…

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  • The Noongar of south western Australia were the only Australian Aboriginal group that did *not* take up the practice of circumcision, despite a lot of pressure from neighbouring groups to do so.

    In this context, circumcision meant substantial modification with a sharp rock – in some cases, very extensive modification. ‘Whistle dicking’ (cutting a row of holes in the underside of the penis) was a standard joke among Australian schoolboys when I was a kid.

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  • #34: Circumcission (like female ablation in various forms) is widespread in Africa also, with strong affinity for Afroasiatic or Sudanid speaking groups, which are usually also pastoralist. It was practiced in ancient Egypt, etc. Body modification is known to exist or have existed in many other culturesin Africa and elsewhere, this is not so peculiar seen from that viewpoint, however affecting sexuality directly… it’s a most controversial issue.

    Also whether Phoenicians practiced human (specifically children) sacrifice has been challenged and is under debate. It did not have to be the first born nor was necessarily a widespread practice in any case: we just do not know much about that and that’s about it.

    Religious pretexts can also be wielded in the case of female ablation: in many parts of Africa it is a religious matter. You know the story of the Fox and the Termit Mound… it’s just like the Genesis or the Quran for them. Same logic for same barbarity.

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  • @32 “So I’d imagine the original prohibition on foreskins was an attempt to cure masturbation”

    Didn’t the phoenicians sacrifice their first-born at one point and then stop? I always assumed circumcision would date from that time (with an echo in the bible story).

    I think the anti-masturbation argument is the likely explanation for why and when it took off in the USA.

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  • #32: IMO, yes: the unspoken truth behind circumcission is, among others, a blunt attempt to prevent masturbation.

    There may be another less obvious reason however: to inflict Edipic pain from the Parent in the context of the Yahvistic psychology of “fear god, fear authority, fear your dad” – so different from the modern vision (in some parts of the world) of god and dad as some sort of benevolent Santa Claus primarily.

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  • @29, 31,

    I’m intact as are most Irishmen, and I’ve never heard anyone ever mentioning any problems with having a foreskin… quite the opposite in fact?!

    Most US Readers probably do not realize that the foreskin provides a natural protective cover to the glans, without which the skin of the glans gets up to 15 times thicker, and looses a lot of sensitivity.

    Plus, there is no need to use any “rubbing oil” or lubricant of any kind when getting jiggy alone – if you know what I mean?!

    So I’d imagine the original prohibition on foreskins was an attempt to cure masturbation?!

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  • @Karl: Huh, I didn’t know that. Thanks.

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  • ” Tim Martin Says: August 28th, 2012 at 10:33 am Pardon my ignorance of the history of circumcision, but would anyone have even *thought* to cut off a boy’s foreskin for medical reasons if it hadn’t already been a religious or cultural practice to do so?”

    Of course! Just like we all think of cutting off women’s breast to stop breast cancer… Sarcasm. Ironically, cutting off the breast would probably be far more effective than circumsision.

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  • 27 -

    Foreskins do have a tendency to get infected. Both my father and my maternal grandfather were originally uncircumcised, but due to medical necessity needed the foreskin removed. Actually, I think my father needed a tad bit more removed, but the less detail I know about that, the better.

    It was the family history of “foreskin problems” which caused my mother to decide to circumcise my brother and I.

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  • @27, Tim,

    Right – it’s just a post-hoc rationalization that genital mutilation confers some good on the unwilling recipient!

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  • Pardon my ignorance of the history of circumcision, but would anyone have even *thought* to cut off a boy’s foreskin for medical reasons if it hadn’t already been a religious or cultural practice to do so?

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  • “Didn’t Germany pass a very strong anti circumcision law recently (I can’t remember if it banned it completely until a certain age)?”

    No – there was a local judge that raised that question (there isn’t a “precedent” analogue in German Law). Still, lawmakers will have to find ways to make circumcision legal for specific religious reasons.

    I had to specifically “opt out” for my son in California – so I can confirm that in much of the US, circumcision is the default.

    From personal, i.e. anecdotal information, I agree that the inside of the foreskin is actually more sensitive than the glans.

    There was a recent article (on CNN?) that tried to argue the huge cost savings of preventative circumcision. However, when I looked at the numbers, it seemed to me that doing circumcisions population-wide was a far larger cost. YMMV.

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  • As I see it, cricumcission is akin to female genital mutilation, even if maybe not in the most extreme forms (clitoris ablation) but certainly in its “milder” ones (labial ablation and such). I think that no religious dogma can be pretext for it in minors. If adults want to go through the procedure once they are 18 y.o., that’s their problem. This is similar to Jehova Witnesses attempting to forbid blood transfussions to their children: it just cannot be accepted because it harms the minor and the state must protect minors from their parents, when these are harmful (in the name of religion or crack I could not care less).

    Of course I understand that these views are controversial because religious and “family values” fanatics want to have their way with their children but it’s simply not right.

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  • The “evidence” people cite against circumcision’s STI-prevention benefits is inevitably hilarious. As is how worked up they get about it.

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  • I’m uncircumcised, though born in the U.S. in the 1960s, when that was a rarity. (Both parents were immigrants, and didn’t see the need, and probably didn’t want to pay for it, either.) I distinctly remember as a young boy – about 4 or 5, having some sort of inflammation, and being taken to the doctor, who gave instructions to me and my mother that I needed to clean under the foreskin regularly to prevent future recurrences. So far, in the past 40 years, I haven’t had any recurrences.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    They brand men like a herd of cows. American men are such wimps to let their sons be subjected to this absurd surgery. If it were women tied down & cut, the Feminists would be howling all over the world. The male genitals are a cheap commodity. There is no argument too absurd for the circumcisers. They insult the appearance of the intact penis, claim that circumcision heals everything from body warts to HIV, and draw an illogical distinction between female & male genitals. Circumcision is the mark of a slave, my friends.

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  • @20, Thursday,

    Except for most US guys who are circumcised, there are no “long standing religious traditions” to override?!

    It’s just a relatively recent cultural fad…

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  • IIRC, adult circumcision causes a reduction in sensation while infant circumcision does not.

    Also, it is isn’t just AIDS. Circumcision seems to almost completely prevent cancer of the penis.

    This doesn’t mean one should do circumcision, but I just can’t see it as all that terrible. Certainly not terrible enough to override long standing religious traditions.

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  • pconroy: I don’t think you can reduce human sexual pleasure so easily to a count of nerve endings. It’s true that an intact foreskin (I’m fortunate to have one) is at least as sensitive as the area around it and maybe more, but I think the brain would adapt and build a new map, particularly that of an infant. Sex seems designed to overwhelm the senses anyway.

    In the West the removal of a pleasure organ and assumed reduction of motivating pleasure is part of the point, along with the romantic picture of male as unrestrainable animal (including the usual dose of phallic worship). Still fun as roleplay but not so good for social medical policy.

    For me it comes down to cutting people up without their informed consent.

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  • Didn’t Germany pass a very strong anti circumcision law recently (I can’t remember if it banned it completely until a certain age)?

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  • @15, Chris,

    My wife dragged me to a public meeting on this about 4 years ago – as the New York Health Dept were considering issuing a recommendation that at risk groups for AIDS/HIV be circumcised.

    A speaker against this had some data that circumcised men , IIRC, lose 22 % of their sensitivity, due to circumcision. So he was likening the procedure to a partial Clitoridectomy.

    So it’s possible that circumcised men enjoy sex less than intact men – but they just don’t know that?!

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  • As someone who was circumcised (at least I’m assuming from how it looks) and really has no problem with it, I’m happy it was done as an infant. If it hurt, I have absolutely no memory of it. And how can you miss something you’ve never had? It would be much crueler to do it past the age of four when you are able retain those memories into adulthood.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I would expect that anyone that watches this would never cut off parts their baby boy. :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD2yW7AaZFw&sns=em

    In the US population the cut men get HIV at the same rate as natural (intact) men. Mostly natural Europe gets HIV at a lower rate than mostly cut America. The AAP is changing their statement based on claims from Africa of HIV studies. These contradict real population data from Africa where circumcised men get HIV at the same rate or an even higher rate as natural men. Numerous studies document that erectile dysfunction and loss of sensitivity is a significant issue for cut men. There is no STD advantage, just sexual dysfunction.

    Shame on the AAP for not considering the harm! Have they no sense of decency?

    Especially pediatricians should First do no harm!

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  • i agree there’s no reason to do it in industrialized countries but i’m much more offended by religious, obese, low IQ and people with genetic defects having kids. the children don’t have a choice in those either. technically, you can stretch your foreskin back out if you really want it back that badly although i know it’s a….stretch saying that someone would actually do that.

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  • My son was born in London, and the midwives, seeing that I was an American, were proactively pissy with me, ready to twist my barbaric American arm into not mutilating my child. When I made it clear I wasn’t going to circumcise him, they just looked kind of bewildered and confused. It got worse when I also didn’t demand a C-section just for the hell of it. They were all geared up to force me out of my wrong American beliefs and all they got to do in the end was give me a pamplet about the risks of epidurals.

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  • I have not seen this paper discussed anywhere outside Denmark, so on the off chance that people here don’t know about it:

    http://www.davidwilton.com/files/mc-and-sexual-function—denmark-2011.pdf

    This should probably be a factor to consider as well for parents contemplating circumcising their child.

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  • Thank you for the additional info. :)

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  • #9, from what i know people from dharmic backgrounds are particularly averse to the practice, and muslims are particular keen on it, because it sets the two groups apart. in bengali the term for circumcision is very close to ‘making-one-muslim’ (mussulmani). as i stated above there is no association between christianity and circumcision as such. arab christians circumcise, but arabs circumcised in antiquity as well. european christians never circumcised, except for idiosyncratic reasons.

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  • You’re right about Canada. My mother is Guyanese, and my father is Sri Lankan. At the the time of my birth, they were both Christians (atheists now after hearing me gab about science non-stop). I was born in 1986, and both of my parents were vehemently against the circumcision of my wiener despite their Christianity. The same goes for my brother born in 1994. Now, this isn’t surprising, as most brownz around here do not bother with circumcision despite their religion; however, my white and black friends, either atheist, Jewish or Christian, are not circumcised either.

    Circumcision is now viewed as a barbaric, ancient practice around these parts. I’m glad.

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  • subject to pain

    i remember my brother screaming when they circumcised him. it was in a small clinic and i was in the waiting room. pretty disturbing. though in my family’s hanafi islamic tradition circumcision is not obligatory as a religious rite, so it’s not that big of a deal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khitan_(circumcision)#Religious_sources

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  • http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/commentary-circumcision-without-medical-justification-is-wrong-a-846395.html

    Some context here

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/religious-communities-debate-court-s-circumcision-ruling-a-841276.html

    It is beyond me how anybody can tolerate infants being unnecessarily subject to pain and health risk without any medical indication requiring the procedure. A surgery is a surgery is a surgery.

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  • The only real reason behind widespread circumcission in the USA and some other Anglosaxon countries is some sort of religious-cultural belief

    it was a particular understanding of hygiene and public health, which was common between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century. you can google it. the USA seems to be the last major redoubt; my understanding is that the UK and australia, and somewhat later canada, shifted away from the practice.

    Circumcission does nothing about this last except maybe embolden the penetrating part with a false sense of immunity.

    i think the logic is that in societies where ‘sexual networks’ are common reducing transmission rates at one point of the node in one direction is useful.

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  • The pretext of HIV transmission is the most ridiculous claim ever. It is probably correct that HIV transmission to the penetrating part of coitus (man in heterosexual relations normally) without preservatives is slightly reduced but, logically the greatest risk of HIV transmission is by far in the main direction of fluids (so in the penetrated part, usually the woman in heterosexual relations). Circumcission does nothing about this last except maybe embolden the penetrating part with a false sense of immunity.

    What prevents HIV transmission is avoiding risk practices, like not using condoms. Circumcission has nothing to offer here except to give some men a false sense of immunity and put more women (or receiving participants in homosexual sex) at risk from infected men not using condoms in casual relations.

    The only real reason behind widespread circumcission in the USA and some other Anglosaxon countries is some sort of religious-cultural belief, whose full details I can’t understand. But it’s not because of AIDS and existed before AIDS.

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  • #2, there are cultural differences within the usa about this. that surely wouldn’t happen in the pacific northwest.

    http://www.circumstitions.com/USA.html

    i do think it’s pretty rude that this happens in the medical field. you’re not the only person who has told me about this sort of thing. you can always circumcise later. you can’t uncircumcise.

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  • there are criticisms to be made. i am persuaded by analogous patterns in southeast asia, though the magnitude of effect is weaker.

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  • When my son was born in NYU Hospital, I felt I needed to stand vigil over him to stop him from being circumcised. Though there were distinct requests made for no circumcision both verbally and in writing, 2 different nurse picked him up to take him to have the procedure done, as he “hadn’t had his circumcision yet”, as if that and cutting and clamping the umbilical cord were routine procedures to be performed.

    A doctor questioned me about this and when I said we were passing on this, she said she would have to speak to my wife, to make sure that we “both” understood the ramification of not performing this unnecessary surgery.

    All very bizarre to me…

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  • ** For the record, I do accept that in Africa male circumcision has some preventative value (there are also cross-country comparisons in Southeast Asia).

    Is there? I remember PZ Myers had some pretty harsh criticism of the African studies in terms of methodology.

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  • When Michelle mentioned on Twitter that she was going to write about circumcision, I told her to expect some angry people to come out of the wood-work. Today she has a post up at Scientific American, What's the deal with male circumcision and female cervical cancer? She concludes: On the whole I think that Michelle's...
  • these comments are in a rut. i’m closing the thread. #38, email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com for a better term for stupid people or stupid arguments.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think circumcision is barbaric. I wish I had a choice in whether or not I was circumcised. Circumcision makes men’s penises less sensitive. The extra skin is full of nerves that make sex more pleasurable. I don’t believe in it, and it is really unnecessary. It is really about religion and old ideas. If I had boys, I would never let them do this to them. I was told it was mostly about hygiene as to why they did it to me in the first place. It should be banned as an outdated barbaric practice.

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  • [...] my post for an anti-circumcision manifesto, which it is not. Razib has a post in response to mine, Fair & balanced on circumcision, where he makes a point about numbers being of the essence. Also I get into an argument in the [...]

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  • got a better word for moron?

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  • And now for something completely different…
    Razib, you’re an incredibly smart scientist, so it’s really grating when you use the word “retard”.

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  • There have been more prior claims for health benefits from circumcision than I can easily recount. And each one has not only been shown to be wrong, but that they were never really supported by the data in the first place – and each one is in turn abandoned and never mentioned again, once it becomes obvious to the scientific community that it’s bunkum.

    And then the new claims are trotted out with the announcement that “Now we know that….”

    If you look at the totality of research, the evidence clearly shows that circumcision increases incidence of STDs dramatically, with the sole exception of the one disease that benefits from contact with the immune system: HIV. And the decrease in risk isn’t enough to justify damaging the penis, especially since the most effective means of avoiding HIV infection also reduces the risk of the other STDs – condoms.

    By and large, most of the people with an opinion on circumcision reached their conclusions first and looked for arguments to support them after. Those who didn’t, have pretty much come to the same, obvious conclusion.

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  • Many in this blog testify to their abhorrence of circumcision as a form of bodily muilation…….what aboutspiritual mutilations brought on by all manner of “Religions”??????????????????????

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  • I have to accept “Herpesmingle” is a good platform for people with HPV or other STDs

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  • There was a report about a year ago about deaths associated with the Gardasil vaccine for HPV. I did the math. Even if ALL the suspected Gardasil deaths were ACTUALLY caused by it, infant circumcision is 27 TIMES DEADLIER per patient than the HPV vaccine.

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  • dan says:

    again, we’re not talking about the population we’re talking about SWPLs. if you actually did a survey of the population that would actually help *my* case as most people wouldn’t care, wouldn’t know anything about what you’re asking and half of them would be conservative. most would be religious. most would be circumscised.

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  • The first thing we learn in 100-level statistics is that voluntary surveys on news websites are not representative of the population. It doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to apply the same logic to internet comments. I’m not going to engage in this type of speculation with you.

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  • dan says:

    ok, then remove the words “like yourself” from my comment.

    if you don’t think that reddit’s opinion, which is virtually analagous to NYT and HUffpo, Kos, demunderground comments, represents liberals then you might want to rethink that. yes, liberals are a self selected group. we’re not measureing public opinion, we’re measureing the opinion of those who are in the anti-circumscision movement.

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  • 1) I would thank you to not project your opinions of liberal white people on me nor to assume what my stance is on any of the issues you raised.

    2) No, I honestly do not think that thousands of comments by redditors is a good yardstick for measuring public opinion. Redditors are self-selected so they are naturally going to be a biased sample.

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  • dan says:

    michelle, you don’t think hundreds of thousands of comments on the internet from a specific group are an accurate yardstick to measure opinions? what am i to think of your comment then? i simply said i SUSPECT it has to do with israel hate. that can mean it has anywhere from everything to nothing to do with it.

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/02/san-francisco-circumcision-ban-headed-november-ballot

    see, when SWPLs like yourself become hysterical about something like this is just makes me naturally suspicious. all this time spent on something that really doesn’t matter that much when the same crowd never bothers to spend time on much worse offenses like: fat people having kids and making them fat (child abuse,) religious people raising their kids to be religious (child abuse), actually *having* kids in the first place (environment abuse), halal and Kosher animal slaughter (animal abuse), poor people having kids, low IQ people having kids, people with genetic disorders having kids, people with high potential to have kids with genetic disorders, single parents intentionally having kids, etc. These are all things that are way way worse and get hardly any attention. Instead i constantly have to hear about GMOs, HFCS, global warming (it exists but there’s nothing we can do about it), flouride in the water, Palestine, alternative medicine, etc. So when something in your crowd becomes “cool” to be outraged about i natuallry become suspicious and start to have to make some correlations to explain the hysteria. got it? don’t blame me for trying to explain misplaced outrage…It’s hard for me to see how liberals always say “to each his own” about religion except for this *one* issue even though they’re, basically, religious themselves because thay believe in things like alternative midicine. i’m not saying circumscision is wrong to dislike….i was just sayin’

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Scientifically, you are dealing with two linked issues. The “health” arguments are created with every generation. While reasonable research and epidemiology shows that in industrialized countries, the procedure is non-therapeutic and is just cosmetic surgery. Eventually, the African program will be proven ineffective, with true scientific methods (antivirals, condoms, education, new research) saving the day.
    From a sociological perspective, the only people who push this “procedure” are those that have been subject to it. I’m sure if Michelle researched that aspect, she would expose the bias and the cycle of abuse that is the real problem. In both males and females, the perpetrators are they themselves victims of the procedure. Eventually, women will end the procedure because they will overwhelmingly understand that both female and male genital mutilation are psychologically identical, albeit some female forms are even more cruel.

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  • “I don’t give a fuck to what multiculturalist organizations like the UN say.” Onur! Language! Yes, I agree with you 100%

    Look, mutilation of the sexual organs of infants and children too young to make their own choices, both male and female, is a very big deal. It should be criminal, end of story.

    I was circumcised at birth (Christian). I have a dear sweet childhood female Indonesian friend who got hacked (Muslim). Sometimes we sit together in a corner and sob about it. No we don’t, but we are good enough friends to be able to discuss it, and we do both sincerely wish that meddling fucked-up adults everywhere would keep their hands off the private parts of innocent children.

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  • Dan, I am unaware of to what extent, if at all, the anti-circumcision movement is based in antisemitism, but I don’t think the internet, especially reddit, is an accurate yardstick for measuring public opinion.

    As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m not inherently anti-circumcision. If someone wants to do it to themselves, be my guest. I’m not going to do it to my kids, not because it’s ~what white people like~ (even though I am white), but because my experience with uncircumcised partners has led me to the opinion that uncut penises are better, aesthetically and functionally. If my kid grows up and says he’d rather be cut, fine, we’ll do it. The great thing about NOT circumcising your kid is that you can change your mind about it later. Not so much with the other way around.

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  • I’ve read a few of the U.N statements:

    .
    .
    .

    So why doesn’t this apply to the male’s right to keep his foreskin at birth?
    I’m so sick of hearing women tell me that slicing off the foreskin at
    birth wasn’t mutilation and a human rights abuse…

    Ask that to Muslim and Jewish lobbies.

    BTW, I don’t give a fuck to what multiculturalist organizations like the UN say.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’m against FGM. Perhaps there’s a part of me that hates Africa? Indonesia? Malaysia? Singapore?

    Uh, yeah. Look um, circumcision is not exclusively Jewish, OK? 93% of circumcised men in the US are secular, non-Jewish men who got circumcised at a hospital. OK?

    Stop trying to make this about “hate for Israel” and “hate for the Jews,” because it’s not.

    I am against the genital mutilation of infants, no matter what sex, no matter what race, and no matter what religion his parents are.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’ve read a few of the U.N statements:

    “Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all
    couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number,
    spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and
    means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual
    and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make
    decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and
    violence.”

    “The human rights of women include their right to have control over
    and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their
    sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion,
    discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men
    in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full
    respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect,
    consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its
    consequences.”

    So why doesn’t this apply to the male’s right to keep his foreskin at birth?
    I’m so sick of hearing women tell me that slicing off the foreskin at
    birth wasn’t mutilation and a human rights abuse…I WOULD HAVE WANTED
    MY FORESKIN! It was my body, it should have been my choice. I thought
    children were protected in your vision? Yet you ENCOURAGE circumcision
    of infants for the sake of adult women’s health- it’s sickening. So
    boys don’t deserve bodily integrity? Over 1,000 boys die every year
    from the practice, yet it’s not mutilation because their male.
    Why is it that disparities and discrimination against men are
    completely ignored? Any time a situation is sexist against men, it
    receives absolutely no attention whatsoever.

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  • dan says:

    because they’re very common phrases used from both sides of the argument. i just used the latter earlier. i was jokingly imagining “genomic mutilation” being the new catch phrase and it’s also 3 in the morning. and come on, now, R – i didn’t use your name after the quote so there’s no reason to assume i *was* quoting you. not everyone’s out to get you;) thanks for the discussion.

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