Friday, April 12, 2002

CIRCUMCISION CIRCUMLOCUTION: Andrew Sullivan goes off on a tangent in his reaction to the news that "women whose sex partners are circumcised may be less likely to get cervical cancer:"

The argument against infant male genital mutilation is that it is the permanent, irreversible disfigurement of a person's body without his consent. Unless such a move is necessary to protect a child's life or essential health, it seems to me that it is a grotesque violation of a person's right to control his own body. It matters not a jot why it is done. It simply should not be done - until the boy or man is able to give his informed consent. And to perform such an operation to protect the health of others is an even more unthinkable violation. It's treating an individual entirely as a means rather than as an end. I'm at a loss why a culture such as ours that goes to great lengths to protect the dignity and safety of children (and rightly so) should look so blithely on this barbaric relic.

I dunno --I'm with him when he says that it's something that is questionable in the sense that it causes a lifelong change on people (the very young) who cannot argue the matter. Then again, you could say the same thing about braces. But I have always found arguments comparing circumcision to the actual barbaric practice of female circumcision pretty absurd; female circumcision removes the clitoris, which is pretty essential to female pleasure, whereas male cirumcision removes the foreskin, whose role in male pleasure is mostly unknown unless you're an Internet crank. Besides, doesn't circumcision stop the spread of AIDS too?

Then Sullivan says this:

Yes, I know there are religious justifications for it. But even so, religions should not be given ethical carte blanche over the bodies of children. Would we condone a religious ceremony that, say, permanently mutilated a child's ear? Or tongue? Or scarred their body irreversibly? Of course not. So why do we barely object when people mutilate a child's sexual organ?

The thing is, I think circumcision got started in this country for pseudoscientific reasons, like it cut down on masturbation or something. I think it cuts down on genital stink, too, which means it is just part of the general American obsession (not quite at Japanese levels) with hygiene and physical beauty, along with deodarants and tanning salons and gyms and Soloflexes and perms and retainers and everything else that keeps us looking and smelling better than the rest of the world. And --I mean, come on-- the cut dick just looks better than the uncut dick. That foreskin thing just looks ridiculous, and don't give me any crap about Nature's Way --none of us are natural anymore. Hey, watch me channel Paglia: the circumcised American penis, with its clean, rocketship-like appearance, represents the power of American technology and modern knowhow in the world today. Or something like that. Anyway, circumcision is not genital mutilation --it's genital enhancement. Get it right. But Sulli has a point on the personal-liberty issue, which never stopped anybody from getting aborted, but that's a different issue. Okay, back to the studying aether.

Hey, I wonder what Bennett's take on circumcision is? I'm guessing he has one, being the manliness expert and all. He's like the Robert Bly of blogdom --in a good way, if you're one of those who is not drawn to hate Robert Bly; I understand some are. But I am not.

No comments: