Posted on: December 27, 2013
I join numerous fellow Jews when I say:
Lets stop with the persecution complex. Not everyone who is critical of circumcision is feverishly anti-semitic. For one thing, Jews themselves, to our credit, are continuing in a tradition of being disproportionately over represented in social justice causes by numbering strong in the pro-intact movement.
It is dishonest to suggest that nobody arguing in favor of not cutting children’s genital actually cares about the well-being of children and that the circumcision debate is really an elaborate ruse for an imminent clamp down on ritual for which we should all be bracing. Can we stop pretending that passage of a law which would delay circumcision until the age of majority means that the government is a stone’s throw away from forcing us to use our ipads on the Sabbath and eat bread on Passover? It’s not, and it doesn’t.
A People are not being singled out for persecution here, a practice is. Do you know how we would know if Jews were being especially targeted? If Protestants and Catholics also wanted to non-therapeutically circumcise and were being told that they could while Jews could not. If that were going on, then you would have a case for persecution. But it isn’t, so you don’t. There isn’t a single Genital Integrity activist who is advocating to stop jews from circumcising while also advocating that gentiles be allowed to carry on with the practice. The intact movement is about stopping all child circumcision, the vast majority of which are performed on non-jews for non-religious reasons.
And can we also please stop pretending that in the entire 200 plus year history of our nation’s past this is the very first time there has ever been a curbing of religious practice? American legal precedent demonstrates many times over that religious beliefs are not carte blanche permission to do absolutely anything we want. There are a whole host of actions that we aren’t legally allowed to perform in this country even if our religion requires it of us.
-We are not permitted to deny our children life-saving medical care even if our religion forbids it.
-We are not permitted to partake of particular drugs even if our religion commands it.
-We are not permitted to marry multiple wives, burn someone’s crops to the ground, cut the genitals of a female child….
-We are not permitted to stone someone for adultery…. We are not permitted to stone someone for any reason, period. No matter how much God loves stoning.
Religious freedom exists on a spectrum. Always has. We already know this. Lets stop feigning that moderate curbings in order to preserve human rights are a novel concept being applied for the very first time now, in the domain of male infant circumcision.
Posted on: December 26, 2013
Honestly, I’m not sure why everyone is surprised to see enforcement of laws that are already on the books.
Circumcision is the layering on of two highly illegal acts; felonies, to be precise.
It is already illegal for anyone to touch a child’s genitals unless there is an urgent medically necessary reason to do so.
Oh, and this just in, it is also already illegal to walk up to someone and cut off a part of his body -even if that someone’s parent thinks it’s a really great idea to let you.
Knowing all of this, why would we conclude that when we start compounding the illegal offenses we visit upon a child, these offenses somehow magically combine to form a single sanitized, legal act?
Are we seriously arguing that the whole is less illegal than the sum of its two illegal parts? Check your laws, then check your math.
You know the saying:
“It didn’t pass the laugh test.”
That basically sums up my first conversation about circumcision.
The reaction I typically encounter when I initiate the topic with circumcised American men, is defensiveness. The reaction I typically receive from intact non-American men is initial shock which quickly gives way to disbelief:
and eventual bemusement.
When I tell non-americans that in the United States we’re taught that the foreskin is unhygienic and that being circumcised is cleaner and healthier, that Americans circumcise so as to avoid infection and disease, I can almost see in the Italians’ / Australians’ / Norwegians’ / etc. faces a lowering in estimation of the national average IQ.
“The Americans believe that they will become chronically ill from their own natural bodies. Fascinating.”
I can vividly recall the first time I parroted such wisdom in front of two fellow University students over pints in a North London pub, barely an effort was made to stifle hearty English laughter.
Americans already have a reputation abroad for being rather gullible when it comes to believing whatever our national leaders tell us; but with our collective foreskin phobia we really achieve a new low. All of our developed world counterparts are mystified as to how American doctors have managed to convince American citizenry that if we don’t excise American foreskins, America is hygienically doomed, in spite of the literally billions of healthy data points walking the earth which should serve as compelling counter-examples to this claim.
Consider the following:
If it were true that most men in the rest of the developed world were forever getting sick as a direct result of having their foreskins, we would have heard about it by now. We would be finding ourselves in the midst of a global brick and mortar shortage due to all the wing expansion at every hospital throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, in an effort to accommodate bed space for all the men and boys with pained, infected foreskins. Could everyone please stop and notice that this isn’t happening.
It is astonishing that in this extremely googleable age, we are laboring under such a colossal misconception. If people are genuinely intellectually curious about the question of whether or not the presence of a foreskin throughout one’s life is routinely problematic, the information required to resolve this question is close at hand. Go search the statistics about foreskin complications in the countries I’ve just named. You will find that the vast majority of the intact men in these nations are not merely surviving in spite of having their foreskins, but that they appreciate the nuanced sensitivity which the foreskin transmits, are strongly averse to the thought of parting with it, and incensed at the thought of someone removing it from them by force.
This should tell us something. Namely, that if the intact men in countries with the same access to soap, warm water, and condoms as Americans, are free of the afflictions which a foreskin supposedly courts, then that is strong evidence from which to conclude that virtually all intact Americans could expect the same outcome.
Posted on: December 18, 2013
“He won’t remember” Circumcision and Age Discrimination
A short excerpt from the footage I’ve shot includes a passerby at an intact advocacy march telling me:
“You might as well have it [circumcision] done as a baby. It would hurt as an adult.”
From off camera I respond: “So you think that it doesn’t hurt a baby?”
The man, a guy in his mid-twenties answers back: “I don’t know.” Then, with an inflection which suggests he’s offering evidence to support his assertion that an infant doesn’t feel pain, says “I don’t remember it.”
Did you catch that? Questioned about pain, the man replies instead about the memory of pain.
But maybe this would have been your response as well?
This individual is not at all unique in his inadvertent track switching when attempting to examine the pain aspect of male infant circumcision. It is incredibly common for people to conflate the separate issues of experiencing pain in the moment, and having a memory of said pain. I have exchanged virtually these same lines of conversation with numerous people and the consensus seems to be: Pain unremembered is pain that does not “matter”.
I would submit that we ought to find it very troubling that people are comfortable with the idea of inflicting pain on someone who is unable to record pain to his conscious memory… and yet many of us are, why is that?
I can hazard a guess.
Compassion stems from empathy, and empathy from an ability to recognize sameness to oneself in another. Possibly, many of us have trouble relating to infants as a group because we lack first person perspective from that phase of life. Time spent remembering is time spent mentally ‘visiting’ points of life when we were capable of forming memories. We cannot do that though with our infanthood. We cannot occupy the same first person vantage point. And if we cannot identify with ourselves as infants, that may mean that we find infancy, or any phase which predates recorded memory, to be a generally unrelatable state.
We have a template for what it is to be a six year old in pain, a fifteen year old in pain, a twenty year old in pain. After experiencing and emotionally logging various instances of pain and consistent reaction to pain, we become able to formulate a reliable impression of how our future selves will experience pain, allowing us to generate compassion for someone of an age that we ourselves have not yet attained, an elder. But an infant? We may not naturally be able to generate a similarly visceral response to his pain because without any of our own memories of pain in infancy, we cannot “feel” an infant’s pain as saliently as we feel that of a person of an age of recall.
But stopping to reflect upon the fact that we know objectively that pain is upsetting and something we wish to avoid -all the moreso as a child- we should try and conform our thoughts to reflect that reality.
It isn’t at all logical to apply a double standard to infants. Why should our sole criterion for permission to inflict pain, be that the victim be unable to record said pain to his conscious memory? When did we become okay with trespassing on another’s body, provided that the violated is none the wiser?
We already have a standard for those post-infancy which says that even under conditions where a victim is spared physical pain or the memory of physical pain, violation of one’s physical boundaries is unacceptable. The very notion of co-opting one person’s body for another’s use is offensive to American rule of law. As a society, we abhor rape. However, frequently what stirs a rape victim’s memory of a drugged assault is not lingering physical pain, but a fragmented recall of the incident. If as a culture we are uniformly averse to bodily trespass only under circumstances where victims remember such assaults, then the real crime of date rape is being stingy with the Rohypnol. Yet that’s not Society’s complaint… notice that you’ve never heard a rape survivor lament: “If only he’d dosed me more effectively!”
It would be worth attempting to apply the Golden Rule to the memory of yourself as a young child, and asking honestly whether you think that Infant You would have appreciated having an advocate to prevent him or her from being subjected to unnecessary pain.
Maybe once we strengthen our capacity for empathy, we will stop confusing this question about pain with the entirely different question about memory. The present conflation resonates as a genuine blur, not deliberate evasion or obfuscation. But the fact that our brains struggle to distinguish between these two issues suggests that we aren’t probing the subject very deeply. We would do well to actively seek to increase our capacity for empathy for infants, and come to appreciate their pain even if it goes unremembered.
Posted on: December 2, 2013
If you have never seen George Cukor’s “The Gaslight”, I recommend that you watch it.
Not only is it entertaining cinema, but beyond that, you may appreciate how the cautionary tale is relevant to the pro-intact movement, specifically, how it applies to the interactions between circumcised men experiencing sexual dysfunction and the doctors who treat them. A fascinating study in Deception as a tool in Mind Control, “The Gaslight” demonstrates how the most egregious, undermining power grabs may take the form of psychological warfare, a quiet but effective assault.
Spoiler Alert: This post reveals the ending of “The Gaslight”.
Central to our story are a newlywed couple and a neighborhood cop. The husband is a composer; the wife, niece and heir of a famous opera singer murdered decades earlier by a burglar who broke into the aunt’s home in search of a specific set of valuable jewelry. The jewels were never found, and the murderer never caught. The cop, Officer Cameron, was a boyhood fan of the opera star and in his spare time still probes her unsolved death.
At the opening of the film, the husband and wife have just moved into the late aunt’s home. Inhabited for the first time in decades, this turn of events does not go unnoticed by Officer Cameron. In the evenings, the husband excuses himself for a few hours, purportedly to walk to his nearby office to work on his music. The first evening that he does this the wife notices the living room light dim. She cannot account for why this is happening. When her husband returns she asks him about it. He insists that she must have imagined the change in illumination. The next several evenings, the wife continues to observe the dimming light, again inquires of her husband, and again is told that she is imagining things. Meanwhile, we observe the husband frequently using slight-of-hand to displace household items and treasured mementos which he later “finds” either in his wife’s possession or even on her person, to her genuine shock and confusion. The wife becomes convinced that she cannot trust what she is observing, that it is just as her husband says: she is losing track of where she’s put things, and the lamp isn’t dimming, she is simply imagining it. Unable to rely on her faculties the wife accedes to her husband’s stern insistence that she neither receive guests nor venture outside the home.
Noting the drop-off in comings and goings, Officer Cameron becomes increasingly curious about the wife’s seclusion.
What is actually going on? As for the living room lamp, it is dimming. Why might this be? Well, one explanation is that the gas is being used simultaneously in another part of the home.
In fact, what is happening is that every night after the husband departs the house through the front door, he scales the scaffolding to an eve outside a third-story window where he re-enters the home through the attic; there, he creeps around looking for the late aunt’s jewels. He needs to be able to see, naturally, and when he lights the attic lamp it draws gas from the same source that is fueling the lamp in the living room, which hangs above the wife’s head. The husband is, of course, the late aunt’s killer. He married his victim’s niece in order to gain access to her home. His single-minded goal is to confuse his wife to the point that she becomes convinced she is delusional, then have her hauled off to an asylum so that he can drop the tiresome loving husband front and finally focus his attentions on completing the jewel heist.
The film was a sensation upon release, garnering international acclaim, and the term “Gaslighting” becoming integrated into America’s Mental Health lexicon. To quote from the film’s wikipedia page: “‘Gaslighting’ has come to describe a pattern of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality. This can involve physical tactics (such as moving or hiding objects) or emotional ones (such as denying one’s own abusive behavior to a victim.) The effect is to maintain the abuser’s self-image as a sympathetic person, while simultaneously priming the disoriented victim to believe that he or she is to blame for (potentially escalating) mistreatment.” (Wikipedia.)
I would submit that “Gaslighting” is a frightfully fitting term to describe how the medical community is responding to circumcised patients who seek out treatment.
When men crowd into our nation’s doctors offices presenting with various sexual complications and are offered a panoply of psychological explanations but absolutely no mention of the very likely physical pathologies resulting from amputation of part of their penises, that is a classic example of “Gaslighting”.
Whether dealing with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, inability to ejaculate, or a range of other sensitivity issues, these men are almost always offered patronizing dismissal masquerading as sympathy: “You’re just stressed”, “anxious”, “under-confident”.
Subtext: Your unique emotional pathology is of your own mental making. All to do with nervousness but nothing to do with nerves!
Why is it that almost no man is being told that, given decades earlier someone short-circuited his neurotransmitters when that someone removed fifty percent of his penis’s erogenous tissue and one-hundred percent of his penis’s Meissner Corpuscles, that might have something to do his current problems? Why on earth is no one talking about the physiological factors in play?
While I’m sure we can all appreciate that yes, a certain degree of relaxation, comfort, perhaps familiarity go some way towards informing a man’s sexual response and sexual command, can we stop acting as though the majority of the nation’s men haven’t been robbed of half their sexual nerve conducting capacity when they obviously have? Can we stop trying to make them think that their conditions are something they could fix with a just a li’l dose of confidence and reciting some daily affirmations into the bedside mirror?
Can you think of any other treatment regimen where the clinician overseeing recovery would simply refuse to acknowledge that absent body parts had indeed gone missing? Can you picture a Physical Therapist, on Day One of therapy, standing over her stroke victim patient, arms folded, skeptically shaking her head and tormenting him with cliches like: “Mind Over Matter!”
I know of one woman who lost vision in her right eye as the result of an automobile accident. In time, by practicing certain exercises, she was able to retrain her brain to perceive depth. But I can assure you that none of her doctors pretended that she hadn’t experienced a physical loss, nor did they play dumb about her limitations being the result of said physical trauma. Trust me, no medical professional ever tried to make her think that her pathology was all in her mind; I think that most of us would agree had any physician done so, it would well be recommended that he have his license revoked. Why then can doctors saw away at their patients’ penises, and then decades later, their colleagues diagnose as though that fact has no bearing on anything? This is about as legit as clearing out your neighbor’s bank accounts, stealing his fine dining set, and then, when he humbly appears at your door asking for a modest loan to get him through unexpected hard times, you feign ignorance about the theft and lecture him about being financially irresponsible. Stealing is stealing, whether we’re talking cash or Corpuscles, silver or skin.
Our nation’s men aren’t crazy and they aren’t all suffering from a lack of confidence. They have actually been cut into with actual blades. They have had actual tissue, containing actual nerve endings severed from their bodies. Surely, given this trauma, we should privilege the hypothesis that they will be experiencing dysfunction, not that they won’t.
There is a name for the medical community’s deceitful side-stepping, and again, that name is “Gaslighting”. And it is exposing an utter lack of integrity and scruples among physicians.
The very first cornerstone laid in support of routine circumcision was born out of 1800s “moral hygiene” theory quackery which at one time passed for medicine. Now, you can build tall and wide on a flawed foundation gone unchecked, with no one leaning on your beams or walking your hollow halls, and build the doctors did, to impressive heights. But Deception is a drafty devil. Foreskin-friendly findings continue to erode that original cornerstone claim. Architect a porous framework and it’s only a matter of time before the facts weather your walls and rot your floorboards.
“The Gaslight” ends when Officer Cameron, becoming suspicious of the wife’s seclusion, pays her a visit one evening while the husband is out “composing”. As the two are speaking Officer Cameron observes the gaslight dim and remarks on it. The wife, her voice full of relief, exclaims: “You saw it too!” By this point the officer has pieced together what the husband is up to. In this moment, for the first time in the film, we see someone else confirm for the woman that she is and always has been firmly grounded in reality, and that any reason to think otherwise was only because somebody else had been scheming to make her think otherwise. In the final scene Officer Cameron has caught and captured the husband, but before hauling him away, he grants the woman’s request to confront him. When she does, the husband appeals to her to sabotage the arrest and to help him escape. He tells his beleaguered wife in which drawer she will find a knife to use to cut him free. The wife takes this moment to taunt her husband with a taste of his own medicine. Initially acting as though she will comply, she feigns confusion over where the knife may be, and even while grasping the knife, insists that it does not exist at all.
He thinks that what she holds a knife in her hand? He must be confused, mustn’t he?
She then looks him dead on and calls him out on his deception.
“If I were not mad I could have helped you. Whatever you had done I could have pitied and protected you.
But because I am mad I hate you. Because I am mad I have betrayed you. And because I am mad I am rejoicing in my heart without a shred of pity without a shred of regret. Watching you go with glory in my heart!”
It would seem that, more angry than she is about the jewels, more angry perhaps even than about her aunt’s murder, she is seething over the two-facedness, the deception, this most predatory and craven form of abuse.
Here’s to the late great John R. Taylor, our movement’s “Officer Cameron”, and the groundbreaking work he did not only in researching the foreskin’s functionality, but also in fighting to have the work acknowledged when colleagues made an effort to suppress it. A sincere thank you to Morten Frisch, MD, and the others who have been thoughtful enough to do research on the foreskin and publish what many in the establishment considered unwelcome findings: That the foreskin is useful, that it’s loss can and often does imperil a person’s ability to have gratifying sex. Thank you for being a voice which counters the mind-gaming of those who lack your integrity.
To any man reading this who has experienced firsthand a doctor’s flippant dismissal:
If your American doctor wants to bury his head in the sand about the data, that’s his problem and not yours. Educate yourself about the safe and inexpensive options regarding restoration and sensitivity-enhancing serums. Keep searching for a doctor until you find someone who acknowledges that your loss is real and is willing to address the physical pathology and help you to explore your options. Don’t stand for being Gaslighted any longer.
Posted on: February 9, 2013
Posted on: February 5, 2013
Posted on: December 22, 2012
One of the strengths of our society is that we don’t allow family members of those accused of murder to serve on their kin’s juries, and we certainly wouldn’t trust them to vigorously prosecute. Holding even a trivial amount of shares of stock in a company precludes a person from advising on mergers and acquisitions. Politicians come under scrutiny when it is suspected that they have awarded contracts to businesses which have a history of contributing to that politician’s past campaigns.
The term “conflict of interest” is often cited as a reason that a person must recuse himself of sitting in judgment and trying to assess the weight of evidence put before him.
Most of the American men engaging in the conversations about circumcision, whether physicians, lawyers, or journalists, are themselves circumcised. Most of their female counterparts have had their sons circumcised.
Circumcision rates in the United States have been above fifty percent since the latter half of the twentieth century, with most estimates putting percentages at above eighty percent for years at a time in.
We are not being intellectually honest when we pretend that a nation of circumcised men, and parents of circumcised sons, can truly be trusted to be impartial when it comes to this topic.
When the advising is being done by a largely circumcised and circumcising populace, the result is medical recommendations, readings of the law, and editorializing by individuals who all have a vested interest in validating their own irreversible conditions and in affirming choices they can’t take back.
A mother who has already had her son circumcised of course doesn’t want to discover that she has needlessly brought pain upon her child. Understandably, she would prefer that the evidence she encounters confirm that the past choice she made has turned out to be a net good for her son. It would be difficult to trust that she would truly go scouring for all available facts, knowing that certain facts could steer her towards a disheartening conclusion.
A man who is circumcised would understandably not want it to be true that he is experiencing less than the best possible sex, or providing his partner with less than the best possible sexual experience. He too would be motivated to screen out facts which show this to be the case.
To a doctor who has already severed the foreskins off of hundreds of infants, coming around to recognizing that she has actually harmed rather than helped patients would cause her to admit that she failed on a very fundamental level in her mission as a healer.
The reluctance to experience guilt or regret is likely motivating our fellow Americans to defend at all costs a particular position, rather than to actually try and figure out what is accurate when it comes to health, and ethical when it comes to rights, and how to safeguard both on behalf of future generations of boys. Keep that in mind when you hear American-accented men and women arguing in favor of circumcision, even if the letters “MD”, or “Esq.” appear at the ends of their names.