The first cut is the deepest: the recent circumcision debate

Thanks to San Francisco’s proposed circumcision ban on the ballot this coming November, there’s been a lot of turtleneck debate of late. Many have been crying antisemitism, which seems a bit ludicrous if you think of male bodily integrity as a human rights issue (i.e. no one would call fighting against female genital mutilation anti-religion) — but then you you find out that one of the main proponents of the ban (btw, proponents are called “intactivists”!) recently put out an anti-c comic with some rather indelicate imagery (i.e.”Monster Mohel”, WTF?). It’s been interesting to read some different takes on the issue:

  • Catholic Feminist Francis Kissling encourages religions to progress: “It may be time for Jews to look more closely at circumcision in the context of their own modern view of sexuality, gender and reproduction. Just as we now have Bat Mitzvahs as well as Bar Mitzvahs could not the entire ritual of circumcision be transformed to honor both boys and girls, to eliminate pain and move from the pelvic zone into a more spiritual and holistic understanding of our sexuality?”
  • Founder Rufus Griscom basically calls the debate silly on both sides: “So in the end I come down on the side of my wife’s charming, British, circumsized ex-lover: put away the scalpel. All things considered, better not to mess with it. But if you do chose to trim the turtleneck, ignore the slings and arrows of foreskin fanatics and don’t give it another thought.”
  • And a Guardian UK (natch) editorial makes a pretty strong case against cutting: “Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights outlaws the kind of “harm” that circumcision can cause; article 14 forbids the discrimination that prevents baby boys from enjoying the same protection of their genitalia as baby girls. In the 21st century, it is time to remember that men, too, can be victims of unjust hegemonic systems tolerated in the name of tradition, culture or religion. If we oppose female genital mutilation, has the time not come for us also to oppose male genital mutilation?”

As sex and relationship writers, one of the most interesting arguments against male genital cutting that we’ve heard (that doesn’t get a lot of play) is the idea that uncircumcised men make better lovers when it comes to women — the idea being that they don’t have to jackhammer away during intercourse, pounding a woman’s genitals ’til they’re numb, which is unsurprisingly NOT the ideal route to orgasm for the majority of women. Foreskin and the lubrication it provides allows for a slower, subtler, more sensual movement on the part of the guy, which often works better with female sexual anatomy.

Now that circumcision rates for boy in the U.S. is recently under 50% (some reports even saying it’s down in the low 30s), it’ll be interesting to see if over the next few decades (as those uncut hetero kids grow up) if the percentage of hetero women who orgasm during intercourse goes up at all (it’s been in around 30 percent for a while now). Of course, they’ll have to fight the influence of porn, which is rarely a great example of what actually works for real-life women. Maybe San Fran will eventually propose a ban on bad skin flicks, too.


photo via Flickr