Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Obsessed with Circumcision

For some reason, I have heard so much about circumcision in the last few weeks that it's starting to put the Old Testament to shame. That's saying something. Ok, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I feel like a fair amount of people are giving a lot of attention to this issue, especially since the San Fransisco circumcision ban was proposed. I guess I should throw in my two cents on the issue.

My feelings on circumcision are largely mixed. First of all, I think it's dishonest to directly compare it to female genital cutting. Male circumcision consists of the removal of the foreskin of the penis, which is the equivalent of the clitoral hood on the female. Female circumcision involves, at the very least, the removal of the clitoris, meaning that the two would only be comparable in that sense if male circumcision involved the removal of the entire head of the penis. In addition, the circumstances, stated aims, methods etc. of the two procedures are very different. The way I see it, removing the skin around the head of the penis of a newborn for supposed health reasons or because the parents don't know any better is different than enduring a risky procedure to cut of a large portion of the female genitalia under generally unsafe circumstances in order to keep the girl sexually pure. If we have to resort to emotional appeals by comparing the two in those ways, we probably shouldn't be having this discussion.

That being said, I am not nessisarily in support of circumcision either. One fact that both male and female circumcision have in common is that the only real reason to have the procedures done in the first world is tradition. Appeals to tradition, as always, are fallacious arguments. Just because something is traditional doesn't make it nessasary or morally right. There have been assertions that there are health benefits to circumcisions and there have been studies (some of which were mentioned in a recent video by c0nc0rdance on YouTube) that, in AIDS ridden countries, male circumcision significantly reduced the rate of contraction. For a while, I was pretty convinced that, while I could never call myself a proponent of the practice, circumcision might not be SO bad if the health benefits are that positive. However, a recent blog entry by PZ Meyers has led me to rethink this notion. According to Meyers, the study was incomplete and inaccurate. Besides, in first world countries such as America, AIDS and STDs are less prevalent and relatively preventable with safer sex methods, such as condom use or responsible moderation of sexual activity. If this is so, then only one reason remains for circumsizing boys: tradition. This leaves me, again, with mixed feelings because tradition is never a good justification for something as serious as surgeries on the genatalia of infants.

In the end, I find it difficult to take a strong stand on the issue either way. If the procedure is virtually useless, I cannot support it. However, I don't think that I could support a ban on the practice either. There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, circumcision is less risky, health wise, when done on infants than on older men and boys. The healing process is easier, and the child won't remember it, saving him from future pain and/or insecurities. These points would be rather irrelevant if circumcision weren't so prominent in the United States. The simple reality is that most people in the US choose to have their male children circumcised and I hypothesize that, because of this, many male children would make that choice when they became old enough to decide (even if only due to social pressure). That being as it is, people at this point in time should have access to the simpler infant procedure. I feel that this is one of those situations that needs to be worked out through education and further study rather than legal action.

This is an issue that merits further discussion, but I think the shouts of "human rights violation" and "anti-semitism" are not necessary at this point.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be civil. :)