Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Who's the "Douchebag?"

Every once in a while, you'll get someone writing about the "right" way to talk about circumcision.

The latest I've seen is in a blog post titled "How to Talk About Circumcision Without Being a Douchebag."

On the one hand, I could see what the author was getting at, but on the other, I feel that one side is being ignored.

A good point she makes is that intactivists could do a better job of delivering their message, and I agree.

But there are some points that I simply can't see eye to eye with.

To each their own, but I'm not sure I could continue being "best friends" with someone I knew agreed to have their children mutilated after having given them information.

Would you want to continue to be friends with someone you knew was OK with doing other abusive things to their children?

Beating them black and blue?

Sexually molesting them?

Yes, I see circumcision on par with sexual molestation.

Worse; sexual mutilation.

A child could heal from the wounds of sexual molestation through therapy, but a circumcision scar is permanent and can never be erased.

The author also seems to believe that circumcision is "just another choice," like bottle feeding or using disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers.

"We had a conversation about a subject that can be controversial without making it controversial because that is how adults interact.

And both of our children are thriving.  Both of our children our loved, breastfed, well taken care of."

I've seen this "celebrate our parental choices" attitude before:

And I couldn't agree any less.

It is a mistake to attack and humiliate parents over something they honestly didn't know any better about, and who would take it all back if they knew what they were doing to their children.
I'm not advocating that.

But I also do not advocate corroberating with parents, rewarding willful ignorance, making them feel justified and entitled by calling circumcision a "choice" to be "celebrated."

This author seems willing to pander to her "best friend" at the expense of the basic human rights of that friend's children, because she is more interested in "staying friends" than the principle of basic human rights for all.

I can't agree with sacrificing principle for the sake of friendship.

I couldn't pretend like "nothing happened," just to stay friends with someone whom I gave information to, but decided to mutilate his/her child anyway.

Who is a douchebag?
Now, let's talk about just who the "douchebag" is.

Who is a douchebag?

Someone whom you don't like, or has done something you don't like.

I am ready to acknowledge that there are some intactivists out there who cross the line. There is much reason an intactivist does it though; we feel as passionate about male infant circumcision as people feel about say, female circumcision. It is a gross violation of basic human rights and not to be taken lightly.

People keep saying "you shouldn't judge."

But let's ask, how do you feel about female circumcision?

How do you feel about parents that circumcised their daughters?

And be honest.

Would you hold back and "not judge?"

Would you respect that "parental choice?"

Or would you say the first thing on your mind?

That said, there are also intactivists who have lots of time and patience, and who try to deliver their message in as a non-judgemental way as possible. They try to post facts, links to information, and just leave it a that; only to have it be called "bashing" and "harassment" by parents who simply want to hear nothing other than validation and encouragement, and have it promptly deleted, user blocked.

So who's the douchebag?

The answer is, someone whom you don't like, or has done something you don't like.

Intactivists could tone it down. I will admit.

But why is the first reaction from parents who are adamant about having their child circumcised defensiveness and hostility?

Why does it make someone who wants to post factual information automatically a "douchebag?"

Not all intactivists are extreme. Not all parents are close-minded and pawn off whomever they don't want to hear as "douchebags."

This is probably asking for the sun and the moon, but there needs to be acknowledgement on both sides.

Yes, intactivists can be extreme douchebags.

But if you're a parent who things you've got it all right, but then you openly post about your son's circumcision online,
and then complain that you're being "harrassed" and "bullied" by people whom all they want to do is give you information to make a better choice for your children, and that they're "getting into your business," and then delete what they have to say and block them, because you care more about mutilating your son and being "right" than you actually do about his health and well-being, then you're a douchebag too.

The fact is, circumcision is a sensitive subject, and you're not going to get away with posting about it on the internet, and getting people like us roused up.

If you don't want people "getting in your business," then don't post it on the internet for the whole world to see. 

Related Posts:

The "Mommy Page" Wars

REPOST: If You Can't Stand the Heat...


GRANOLA BABIES: Responses to "Celebratory" Ad

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV II

UPDATE: Now with graphical representations (2/24/2013).

I had already published a post titled "Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV." Readers can see to the left, it ranks 5th as one of my most popular posts.

I recently had a conversation with one Juan Pistolas (an online intactivist persona) concerning HIV transmission rates in Mexico. It was touched off by an article I posted on my Facebook wall, titled "Sexually transmitted infection epidemic ravaging the US", to highlight the fact that having a primarily circumcised male population (over 80%, according to Dr. Schoen), most of which are men who are circumcised from birth, has not helped in the US.

It is often touted by circumcision advocates that circumcision reduces the transmission of STDs. The fact is that STD transmission rates are higher here, than in Europe, where circumcision is rare.

Juan wanted to tell me that American intactivists always point to Europe as a prime example, but that we always seem to forget our Mexican brother to the south.

I couldn't understand what he was talking about. I had always assumed that Mexico would be a poor example, with a high HIV transmission rate, being a third world country.

He replied:

"That's the problem with the majority of persons that believes that just because a third world country is cataloged as such, in this case Mexico, then they automatically assume the country lacks of everything. Hollywood movies have created false stereotypes of many cultures and countries in the world that people adopt as truth, when many times is quite the contrary.

In Mexico we may not have a super infrastructure like the US or Europe has, but despite that, we have a much more less rate of HIV. Much less.

Also, in Mexico you can have access to free condoms if any person goes to any government health clinic and request a few. Of course they aren't Trojans or Sico's, but free condoms are given. We also have free access to sex education in these same health clinics. Just go, see schedules or make an appointment."

I couldn't believe what he was saying.

I wanted numbers.

Enter the CIA World Factbook.

The intactivist organization Saving Our Sons had also just recently published an article titled "HIV in the Circumcised U.S. Up to 500% Higher than Intact Nations," which was no surprise to me, as I had already known for the longest time that the US had the highest rate of HIV transmission in the industrialized world, despite its high prevalence of male circumcision. I had already known that knowing the truth was simply a matter of looking at HIV transmission rates around the world, but I had never actually sat down to look through them. I saw in this article, for the first time, where exactly the US stood as compared to other nations in terms of HIV transmission.

So touched off by Juan's comments, and remembering that I had just recently read the Saving Our Son's article referencing the CIA World Factbook, I decided to look through it to see where Mexico stood.

Sure enough, while America hovers at No. 64, Mexico is way below at No. 79.

I couldn't believe it.



But I started seeing other countries which also fell well below America, countries that I would expect to have terrible HIV transmission rates, and I was floored.

Juan provided his own source IndexMundi.

Juan's source, though, does not list countries by percentage of HIV prevalence, but by actual numbers of people living with AIDS. Doing this shifts the order around quite a bit.

For example, reporting Swaziland's HIV prevalence rate by percentage (25.90%) puts it at No.1 in the CIA Factbook. But looking at the actual number of people living with HIV puts it way below. In fact, many African countries fall below the US when actual numbers of people living with HIV are compared.

I began to make observations that I thought should be posted in this blog.

HIV prevalence rates and circumcision rates in other countries
I started talking to another online intactivist acquaintance to whom I shall refer using his online persona, "dreamer," about what I saw in the CIA factbook. He suggested we look up the rate of circumcision prevalence of these countries, to see what countries with a lower HIV transmission rate than the US have high and/or low circumcision prevalence rates.

He suggested we look at the Wikipedia page on world circumcision prevalence, a suggestion with which I was rather hesitant, because Wikipedia users with a pro-circumcision bias have made circumcision-related pages at Wikipedia unreliable. I went along because I couldn't think of a better source.

Even going with Wikipedia numbers, what we found kept blowing our minds.

Using adult HIV prevalence rates from the CIA Factbook, and circumcision prevalence rates in Wikipedia, dreamer created a spreadsheet that maps out countries by circumcision and HIV prevalence rates.

We were able to see what countries had higher and lower HIV prevalence rates than the US, and which of those had high and low circumcision prevalence rates.

Why the US?
Why should the US be used as any sort of benchmark?

Because America is the driving force behind the resolve to circumcise Africa, and the drive to circumcise boys and men in cultures within its own population that do not practice circumcision. American doctors, "researchers," medical organizations and charity funds are currently placing much time, effort and precious funds in trying to make circumcision prevalence levels as high as ours.

With an adult circumcision prevalence rate of 80% or greater, the United States should serve as a prime example of the "benefits" of circumcision, or lack thereof.

As highlighted on Saving Our Sons, American circumcision "researchers" keep trying to use fear-mongering tactics to shore up support for circumcision, and to get administrators of state Medicaid programs who have stopped paying for routine male infant circumcision to change their minds.

In a recent "study," it was claimed by "researchers" at Johns Hopkins that if circumcision rates drop to the level seen in Europe, that there would be a 12% increase in HIV cases in men.

Comparing HIV/circumcision statistics between the United States and Europe, one must wonder how exactly did the "researchers" arrive at their conclusion.

Researchers claim that that circumcision cuts HIV transmission rates by 55 to 65 percent, based on three African trials. Promoters of circumcision in Swalizand (with funding from PEFPAR and others) seek to circumcise 80% of the male population as a step towards the United Nations goal of zero new HIV infections by 2020. Similarly, the W.H.O. in concert with the U.N., the World Bank, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and several other very well funded and influential N.G.Os (including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), with visible leadership from Hillary Clinton, are funding, supporting and administering a multinational effort to circumcise over 28 million men in Sub Saharan Africa by 2015.

An increased rate of HIV transmission and/or prevalence should be expected in non-circumcising countries, and a decreased rate in circumcising countries, but this is simply not observed.

The following are observations from the CIA World Factbook, and circumcision prevalence rates as found in Wikipedia.

How many countries have a higher HIV prevalence than the US? What are the circumcision rates in these countries?
There are 63 countries with a higher HIV rate than the US. Of these, 26 countries are primarily circumcising countries (e.g., have a circumcision rate over 80%). 26 countries have a low circumcision rate (eg, have a circumcision rate under 20%).

Observation: The number of primarily circumcising countries, and countries with a low circumcision rate, that have a higher HIV prevalence than the US, is about the same. (26 vs. 26)

How many countries have a lower HIV prevalence than the US? What are the circumcision rates in these countries?
There are 102 countries with a lower HIV rate than the US. Of these, 30 countries are primarily circumcising countries (e.g. have a circumcision rate over 80%). 53 countries have a low circumcision rate (have a circumcision rate under 20%).

Observation: The number of countries with a circumcision rate under 20%, and a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US, is greater than the number of circumcising countries with a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US. The number of circumcising countries with a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US, is lesser than the number of intact countries with a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US. (53 vs 30)

HIV prevalence is lower in the US, where 80% of the adult male population is circumcised from birth, than 26 countries where circumcision is rare (circumcision rate is under 20%), but higher than 56 countries where circumcision is rare.

How many other countries in the world have a high circumcision rate? Is HIV prevalence higher, or lower than the US, where circumcision prevalence is high?
56 countries other than the United States have circumcision rates greater than 80%; HIV is more prevalent than the US in 26 of these countries, while less prevalent in 30 of them.

Observation: Of the countries where the circumcision rate exceeds 80%, the number of countries where HIV prevalence is lower than that of the US, is in fact greater than the number of countries  where HIV prevalence is higher than the US.

In other words, there are more circumcising countries with a HIV prevalence rate lower than the US, than there are circumcising countries with a higher HIV prevalence rate. (30 to 26)

The US does better than 26 circumcising countries, but worse than 30.

How many countries in the world have a low circumcision rate? Is HIV prevalence higher, or lower than the US, where circumcision prevalence is high?
79 countries in the world have circumcision rates under 20%. Of these, 26 have a higher HIV prevalence rate than the US, and 56 have a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US.

Observation: Of the countries where the circumcision rate falls below 20%, the number of countries where with a lower prevalence rate than the US is greater than the number of countries with a higher prevalence rate than the US.

The number of countries where the circumcision rate falls below 20% and the HIV prevalence rates are lower than the US, far exceeds the number of countries where the circumcision rate is greater than 80% and HIV prevalence rates are lower than the US. (53 to 30)

In other words, there are more countries where circumcision is rare, and have a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US, than there are circumcising countries with a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US.

Countries where circumcision rates exceed 80%, and HIV is more prevalent than the United States (By rank in HIV prevalence)
Kenya, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, The Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Togo, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Angola, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin

Observation: These are all African countries.

Countries where circumcision rates exceed 80%, and HIV is less prevalent than the United States (By rank in HIV prevalence)
Libya, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Israel, Bahrain, Iran, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Quatar, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan

Observation: Many of these countries are countries in the Middle East, where Islam is prevalent and children are circumcised as a matter of religious practice.

Countries where circumcision rates fall below 20%, and HIV is more prevalent than the United States (By rank in HIV prevalence)
Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Estonia, Guyana, Ukraine, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Dominican Republic, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Latvia, Burma, Portugal

Observation: The majority of countries in the first row are African countries. A good number of these countries lie along the Caribbean Sea. European countries are rare and appear sporadically.

Countries where circumcision fall below 20%, and HIV is less prevalent than the United States (By rank in HIV prevalence)
Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Cambodia, Peru, Nepal, Switzerland, Vietnam, Ecuador, France, Chile, Spain, Moldova, Mexico, Italy, India, Iceland, Costa Rica, Canada, Belarus, Austria, Paraguay, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Bolivia, Bhutan, United Kingdom, Belgium, Nicaragua, Laos, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Mongolia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sweden

Observation: There is a prevalence of European, South American and Asian countries. Countries where one might expect a higher HIV prevalence rate have a surprisingly low prevalence rate. Colombia and Costa Rica border Panama, which falls above the US in HIV prevalence, yet, they have a lower HIV prevalence rate than the US. Similarly, Nicaragua borders both Honduras and El Salvador, where HIV prevalence rates are higher than the US.

I expected countries to the south of the United States, have a high prevalence of HIV. I was surprised to find Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, and Bolivia in this number.

Observe how low many of these countries fall along the list as well.

Problems With This Analysis
One of the problems with this analysis is the way circumcision percentages are reported on Wikipedia. They are reported on three major ranges, which are "less than 20%," "between 20 and 80%," and "above 80%." The problem with a range between 20% and 80% is that a country may have a circumcision rate of 21% or 79%. Additionally, percentages could hide relevant numbers.

In Lesotho, for example, 23% of adult men are circumcised, so it falls within that "between 20 and 80%" range. Promoters of circumcision may try to make an example of Lesotho, because it ranks number 3 in the CIA fact book, with an HIV prevalence rate of 23.6%. Closer analysis, however, reveals that, actually, HIV  is more prevalent among the circumcised. (The ratio of circumcised men vs. intact men who contracted HIV was 22.8 vs 15.2, according to the latest demographic health survey.)

Malawi is yet another country circumcision promoters might try to make an example of, with its rank of No. 9 in the CIA fact book (11% HIV prevalence rate), and its circumcision rate below 20%. Here too, HIV is more prevalent amongst the circumcised. (The ratio of circumcised vs. intact men who contracted HIV was 13.2 vs 9.5, according to this demographic health survey.)

Rwanda is further down on the CIA fact book at No. 25, with an HIV prevalence rate of 2.9%. The low circumcision rate (less than 20%) makes Rwanda fodder for circumcision advocates, however here too, HIV  is actually more prevalent among the circumcised. (The ratio of circumcised vs. intact men who contracted HIV was 3.8 vs 2.1, according to this demographic health survey.)

Circumcision advocates are trying to make Swaziland their ultimate example, ranking No. 1 in the CIA fact book, with an HIV prevalence rate of 25.9%, and a circumcision rate that falls below 20%. What they fail to report is the fact that, yet again, HIV was actually found to be more prevalent among the circumcised. (See this demographic health survey.)

Tanzania’s circumcision rate is listed as being “between 20 and 80,” but this hides a circumcision rate of 69%. It ranks No. 12 in the CIA fact book, with an HIV transmission rate of 5.3%. And here again, HIV was more prevalent among the circumcised. (See chart here.)

Malaysia’s circumcision rate is listed as being “between 20 and 80.” However, it is a known fact that approximately 60% of the Malaysian population is Muslim, where close to 100% of the men are circumcised (circumcision is uncommon in the non-Muslim community). According to MalaysianAIDS Council vice-president Datuk Zaman Khan, more than 70% of the 87,710 HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country are Muslims, which means that HIV is spreading in the community where most men are circumcised at an even faster rate, than in the community where most men are intact.

It would appear that The Philippines is a model country for promoters of circumcision. It ranks No. 147 in the CIA fact book, and a circumcision rate of over 80%. (The majority of the male population is circumcised, as it is seen as an important rite of passage.) In the 2010 GlobalAIDS report released by UNAIDS, the Philippines was one of seven nations in the world which reported over 25 percent in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2009, whereas other countries have either stabilized or shown significant declines in the rate of new infections. Among all countries in Asia, only the Philippines and Bangladesh (another circumcising country, No. 112 in the CIA Factbook) are reporting increases in HIV cases, with others either stable or decreasing.

Researchers in Africa claim that circumcision reduces the transmission of HIV by 60%. They purport to have discovered a lower rate of HIV transmission in the circumcised men in their "studies." These studies were used by the WHO to endorse circumcision as a prevention measure for HIV, and are currently being used to instate "mass circumcision campaigns" in different countries in Africa, where HIV transmission rates are high, but circumcision rates are low.

These include countries where HIV is more prevalent among the circumcised!

Real world data reveals, however, that results from studies do not necessarily correlate with reality.
An analysis of data from the CIA Factbook, and circumcision rates as reported on Wikipedia reveals that a population where the majority of males are circumcised does not necessarily translate to a lowered rate of HIV transmission. A circumcision rate of 80% or greater does not necessarily equate to a lowered rate of HIV transmission, and a low circumcision rate does not necessarily mean that HIV will run rampant.

Further analysis reveals that just because a nation has both a low circumcision, and a high HIV transmission rate, this doesn't necessarily mean more men with foreskins have HIV; the majority of men with HIV may in fact be circumcised.

If circumcision is such a great way to prevent HIV, why isn't it obvious in this country? Why does America have an HIV transmission rate that is far greater than a good number of nations where circumcision prevalence is low? Why is it at the top of a list of 30 countries where circumcision prevalence high? What about all these other countries that are supposed to be "inferior" to us, and have both low circumcision AND an HIV prevalence rates? And why aren't "researchers" interested in what's happening there? Perhaps such countries are doing something that we aren't to keep HIV transmission low, but it seems "researchers" aren't that interested.

It needs to be explained how something that never worked in this country, is going to suddenly start working miracles in Africa. America should start fixing its own HIV problem before pretending like they can go to other countries and try to solve theirs.

My thanks to  Juan Pistolas and dreamer for their great help and inspiration for this blog post.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Circumcision "Researcher" Blunders

The following circumcision "researcher" flubs were highlighted on Circumstitions News.

Circumcision "Researchers" in Africa: "Oops"
First on the bill are the three big African "circumcision trials." Apparently, the fact that two of them were registered late went unnoticed. That is, until recently.

According to trial registration documents, the South African trial was registered a year and a half after recruitment ended and seven days before the results were published! The Ugandan one a month after recruitment ended, and a month before publication.

It looks like PLOS One and The Lancet wanted to publish impressive high impact trials, but found they weren’t registered. To get around this, it looks like they got the authors to do it retrospectively, and hoped no one would notice!

Discrepancies and/or absurd correspondences between the plans and the outcomes as a result of the late registration can be observed, for example, that the South African trial got EXACTLY as many subjects (3274) as planned.

"Gold standard" indeed!

(For more details, read the article and Hugh Young's commentary here.)

US Circumcision Death Rate May Be 156 Annually: Thx Prof. Morris!
Next up, a Brazilian study, which evaluates circumcisions performed at Brazilian hospitals within a 27 year period, has been reportedly circulated by Australian circumcision enthusiast Bryan Morris, presumably because he likes the "very low mortality rate" associated with the procedure.

For the study, researchers used figures from the Unified Health System database from 1984 to 2010. A total of 668,818 men were admitted to public hospitals for circumcisions to treat diagnoses of phimosis.

The researchers found that there were 63 deaths associated with circumcision within a 12 year period (1992 to 2010) for a mortality rate of 0.013%.

Brian Morris must have been jumping for joy to see this figure. Except, that percentage hides a rate of 1 in 7692 circumcisions (63 out of 484,596 circumcisions in a 12 year period). An estimated 1.2 million newborn boys are circumcised in the United States yearly, where this rate would mean 156 circumcision deaths per year.

Forget the fact that phimosis is often misdiagnosed, putting into question the necessity of a percentage of the circumcisions examined; this number far exceeds Bollinger's estimation of 117 circumcision deaths per year.

It is difficult to come up with an accurate estimate as to the deaths caused by circumcision, because hospitals aren't expected to report this data, and/or because doctors often deliberately misattribute them to other causes to avoid a lawsuit.

But thanks to Professor Brian Morris, we may now have a better idea.

(For more details, read the article and Hugh Young's commentary here.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

ILLINOIS: Law Against "Ritualized Child Abuse" Proposed - Circumcision Exempted

Legislation outlawing the ritualized abuse of a child has been introduced in Illinois by one Senator Don Harmon.
The catch?
It makes a specific exemption for infant genital mutilation:
    Sec. 12-33. Ritualized abuse of a child.
    (a) A person commits ritualized abuse of a child when he or
she knowingly commits any of the following acts with, upon, or
in the presence of a child as part of a ceremony, rite or any
similar observance:
        (1) actually or in simulation, tortures, mutilates, or
    sacrifices any warm-blooded animal or human being;
        (2) forces ingestion, injection or other application
    of any narcotic, drug, hallucinogen or anaesthetic for the
    purpose of dulling sensitivity, cognition, recollection
    of, or resistance to any criminal activity;


    (b) The provisions of this Section shall not be construed
to apply to:

        (2) the lawful medical practice of male circumcision or
    any ceremony related to male circumcision;
If he has to write an exception to protect circumcision, what does it say about the practice?
It sounds like Senator Don Harmon is aware of the fact that this law would clearly be applicable to male infant circumcision. 
In other words, not even Keemonta Peterson would be prosecutable under the law, because it was a "ceremony."
"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

During hospital circumcisions, babies may or may not be given anesthetic to dull their sensitivity and lessen their pain. (Most are not.) Babies are normally given a little of wine during Jewish circumcisions. Furthermore, all babies, Jewish or not, are circumcised at a time when they will be too young to remember, and cannot fight back.
Circumcision creates a wound on the penis and removes a high concentration of nerve endings that do not exist on the rest of the penis - thus causing sensory and mechanical damage to the genitals. As recently reported by Reuters and many mainstream news media, a recent study shows that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity. And there have been other reports (see Frisch and Sorrells.)

Can someone still argue that circumcision does not mutilate a human being, a minor, a baby?

More info on Don Harmon:

Thanks to dreamer for bringing attention to this on his blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Intactivism: It's Not Just for Gentiles Anymore

One of the greatest brick walls for intactivism has been the fact that the circumcision of newborns happens to be a religious ritual practiced by a very vocal minority. When circumcision is challenged, it doesn't take very long for Jewish defenders of infant circumcision to start insinuating that those who oppose circumcision are equivalent to, or worse than Nazi Germans. In the past, accusations of antisemitism were a very effective tactic at silencing any discourse regarding the circumcision of infants. To date, Jewish circumcision advocates still expect opponents of the practice to feel guilty because they're challenging a tradition practiced by survivors of the Holocaust, but that strategy is slowly losing its effect.

Accusations of antisemitism are based on three assumptions:

1) That circumcision is exclusively Jewish
2) That circumcision is universal among Jews
3) That intactivists focus on stopping only Jewish circumcision

The fact is, circumcision is not exclusive to Jews; only approximately 3% of all circumcisions in this country are Jewish brisim; the rest are secular, gentile circumcisions performed at hospitals.

In addition, circumcision is not universal among Jews. There are Jews in Europe who have been leaving their children intact for years. A growing number of Jews are forgoing a traditional Bris Milah circumcision ceremony, and instead opting for a more peaceful, non-cutting Bris Shalom naming ceremony. Even in Israel, there is a growing number of parents who are not circumcising their children. A recent poll reveals that 1/3rd of Israeli parents question the practice.

Molly Tolsky brings the following picture back from her 10-day Birthright trip to Israel:

"Wherever you go, even in the Holy Land, people have opinions on circumcision. Case in point–I managed to capture this from the bus on the way to Tel Aviv. I believe what that van is blocking out is “Freedom of choice for newborns.” So even though this debate is getting a little annoying and at times totally out of line, it’s sort of nice to know that it’s not just us crazy Americans who spend hours discussing the rights of our baby’s penises. It’s us crazy Jews everywhere."

The following documentary follows two Jewish couples, one in America and one in Israel. One couple decides to proceed with the circumcision ritual, the other does not:

And finally, it would be one thing if intactivists targeted the Jewish ritual of infant circumcision. The fact is that intactivists oppose the forced genital cutting of ALL minors, regardless of race or creed. Of all circumcisions that happen in the US, only about 3%, perhaps even less, comprises of Jewish brisim; the rest are secular, non-Jewish circumcisions that happen at hospitals. We're opposed to ALL of it.

It is dishonest for Jewish advocates of circumcision to pretend like they're being "singled out," when this clearly isn't the case. Little by little people are seeing through this smear tactic, as more and more people have the courage to speak out, despite the threat of being labeled Nazi-Germans.

Jewish Intactivists Galore
Now as I've said earlier in this post, circumcision is not exclusive to Jews. But furthermore, intactivism is not exclusive to gentiles. Some of the most outspoken voices in the intactivist movement happen to be Jewish. In this blog post I include a list, which is by no means complete, of some of the most outspoken Jewish intactivists.

At least one young man has written an open letter to the mohel who circumcised him. Shea Levy is to be commended for the courage to challenge tradition, and to challenge the very man who cut off part of his penis.

Shea Levy

Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home, is author to the revolutionary documentary CUT: The Film, which examines the subject of male circumcision from a religious, scientific and ethical perspective. In addition to writing the OpEd "Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews?" for the Jewish Daily Forward, he has also participated in other intactivist demonstrations.

 Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon wearing tefillin in protest against the latest AAP Statement
"When considering the practice of female genital cutting, we don’t start from a neutral position of 'I wonder whether there are any health benefits to permanently altering the genitals of baby girls? Let’s set up some studies and see what kinds of diseases cutting off clitorises can prevent!' We don’t do this, because we understand the very basic concept that cutting away healthy, functional tissue in the hopes of preventing potential disease is just bad medicine."
~Eliyahu Ungar Sargon

An interview with Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon

Cultural anthropologist Leonard Glick, MD, PhD, is the author of Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America. Glick became aware of the role of circumcision in Jewish history during the 1990s, while working no his first book, Abraham's Heirs: Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe. This was the catalyst that led him to research on the entire subject of circumcision. Glick is a father of three sons, all of whom were circumcised; he admits he hadn't given the practice a second thought when they were born. Through his research, he became "totally convinced that cutting the genitals of infants and children, girls or boys, is fundamentally evil. And that is why I am an intactivist." Glick describes himself as a "scholarly activist." He regularly sends letters to legislators, marches in protests, and gives lectures on Judaism and the history of circumcision.

 Leonard Glick MD, PhD
"The fact that I am opposed to this anachronistic, barbaric behavior has nothing to do with the fact that I am Jewish.... Children, whether male or female, of any race or ethnicity or background, have the right to their own physical integrity... No one, no parent, no adult, no one has the right to deprive a child of any part of his or her body without extreme medical emergency justification."

An interview with Leonard Glick

Dean Edell is a Jewish-American physician and broadcaster who hosted the Dr. Dean Edell radio program, which aired live from 1979 until December 10, 2010. In his own words, he has had "a long and vociferous opposition to the practice of routine male circumcision." Edell had fathered three boys whom he agreed to circumcise before he became an intactivist. Subsequently, he fathered two boys whom he refused to circumcise, and became one of the most outspoken opponents of circumcision.

In recent years, Edell has also strongly criticized the ongoing "mass-circumcision campaigns" in Africa. "The idea, that we Westerners are going to march into Africa... and are going to... perform an operation on millions and millions of men, when we refuse to feed [them], get them useful jobs, and bring them fresh water, is so naïve that it expresses to me the true desperation of the circumcision lobby."

Dr. Dean Edell

The following is an excerpt from one of his broadcasts:

"How do I do this without getting some friends very, very mad...

Are you ready?

Amongst speakers, at the CDC's National HIV prevention conference in Antlanta, which is happening, gonna be happening right now, amongst the speakers is a physician from Operation Abraham, an organization based in Israel, named for the Biblical figure who was circumcised at an advanced age according to the book of Genesis, the group trains doctors in Africa to perform circs on adult men to reduce the spread of HIV.

Two things.

First they had to stop the study, because they found indeed, that it didn't help at all in spreading HIV to women. So it doesn't seem even to be effective there, AND, the recommendation is men still have to wear condoms with every intercourse, where in Africa men think they get circed "I'm not gonna need a condom." But the heavy recommendation is you DO NOT stop using condoms, so then WHAT IS THE POINT? In Africa?

But here's my point.

Of what interest is it to Israelis, of what the rest of the world does?

Now I can say this because I'm Jewish.

And I think when Jews stick their necks out here and become the world's most vociferous proselytizers for circumcision, when it is our paticular religious rite, it would be like Catholics telling me not to use birth-control, I resent that. And when they try to inflict it into public policy, then you really get me blowing smoke out my ears.

We have no business telling other people what to do. It's like telling other people not to eat pork, like telling other people not to drive their cars on Friday. It is not the place.

And you understand the deep fear that Jews have about all of this, is in WWII, they pulled men's pants down [and] if they were circumcised you went off to the concentration camp. So there's a deep scar there.

And, um, this is not said, I'm the only person you'll ever find that say this, will admit this, that Jews feel more secure among populations where people are circumcised.

I know, I know. It's only been 50 years, but never the less. The memory I hope, you know, will be long.

All I've got to say is, very well said. Dr. Dean Edell is to be commended for having the courage to tell it like it is.

An interview with Dr. Dean Edell

Few people may know this, but radio talk show host Howard Stern is very outspoken against the practice of neonatal circumcision. He has openly resented the fact that he was circumcised on more than one occasion. On at least one occasion, he hosted inventor of the TLCTugger foreskin restoration device Ron Low on his show.

"You know, my mother is so into 'natural'. Everythi- , 'The body is beautiful,' you should hear the rap. 'The body is beautiful, we should leave things natural...' So, she wouldn't get me braces. My teeth were as crooked as a four-way intersection in Washington DC, and green, and bu-bu-bu- wouldn't get me braces, My teeth were so wrecked because 'naturally the body will heal itself.' She's like a Christian Scientist. ... but the penis? Right out the window!" 
~Howard Stern

Jonathan Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who attended yeshiva through high school, is the founder of IntactNews, a news organization for the intactivist movement. He is also currently a Projects Coordinator at Foregen, a nonprofit founded to provide therapies for foreskin regeneration using regenerative medicine.

Jonathan Friedman, IntactNews, Foregen

I believe this is what has happened to all Jewish males, as well as the majority of non-Jewish males in the USA: we’ve been hijacked by abusive authority figures of the past. Whether it's the Victorian-era doctors, bent on perpetuating their own sexual repression, or during the Maccabean Period where the Jewish priestly ruling class instituted the more severe form of brit milah that is practiced today, which includes brit peri'ah (complete foreskin ablation), we are made to suffer and cause our children to suffer in an endless cycle of trauma. It's high time we stop.

And finally, but definitely not least, and definitely not the last in the long list of Jewish intactivists, Rebecca Wald is the founder of Beyond the Bris, a blog for the purpose of uniting Jewish people who oppose neonatal circumcision. The blog is self-described as a "multimedia project created by Jewish people who are united in the belief that circumcising healthy children is harmful and unnecessary. We are the faces and voices of the current pro-intact Jewish movement." Many of the Jewish intactivists already mentioned in this blog have contributed to, or have been mentioned in Beyond the Bris

Rebecca Wald

Other notable Jewish intactivists include Ronald Goldman, Ph.D, executive director of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, and author of Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective and Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (he may be contacted at, Rosemary Romberg, author of Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma, and Lisa Braver Moss, author of the book The Measure of His Grief, and many essays published in Tikkun, Parents, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the list doesn't end here. Readers can learn more about Jewish intactivists not mentioned here on Beyond the Bris.

A few of Beyond the Bris's contributing writers: Eli Ungar-Sargon,
Lisa Braver Moss, Dr. Mark Reiss and Rebecca Wald

Related Links:
The following are links to Jewish groups against circumcision:

The following is a Facebook group for Jews and others against circumcision:

These link to websites in Hebrew, run by intactivist groups in Israel:

The following are resources on "Brit Shalom":

"I believe circumcision is a major mistake...The code of the Jewish law is called "halacha" (the way). Within the Code, there is a provision that if a mother looses a son because of circumcision, she is NOT obligated to circumcise her next son. I extrapolate from this, the inter-connection of my human family, that enough deaths and maiming have occured because of circumcision. Therefore - circumcision is no longer a requisite! Just as we no longer practice the animal sacrifices in the traditional temple, so let us not sacrifice an important piece of our mammal in the temple of tradition."
- Rabbi Natan Segal, 2007
Rabbi of Shabbos Shul, Marin County, California, U.S.A.
Ordination: 1977 Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Yeshiva B'nai Or Philadelphia, Pa.


"As a Jewish grandfather, I want to assure young couples about to bring a child into the world, that there are other members of the Jewish "older" generation, including other Jewish physicians, and even some rabbis, who feel as I do. If your heart and instincts tell you to leave your son intact, listen!"
- Dr. Mark D. Reiss, of Doctors Opposing Circumcision speaking to Rabbi Nathan Segal's Congregation on Kol Nidre eve.


"I am calm and comfortable in the knowledge that no one will ever take a knife to this baby's flesh in the name of religion... I am confident that my people have such an abundance of life-enhancing, life-affirming and mind-opening traditions, that our identity and sense of cultural self-heed will happily survive our outgrowing of circumcision, a cruel relic which has always felt to me like an aberration at the heart of my religion."
- Dr. Jenny Goodman
Challenging Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective (UK)


" recently as the mid-nineteenth century, in Eastern Europe and Russia there was a widespread move to stop the practice... Led by women--what a surprise!--who thought the practice barbaric and patriarchal, the movement eventually even convinced Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, who refused to allow his own son to be circumcised."
- Michael S. Kimmel, Professor, SUNY Stony Brook
TIKKUN, Volume 16, May/June, 2001.

"Coming from a European background... where many Jews reject a brit milla as an archaic and barbaric ritual... This author grew up in France in a traditional Jewish family. Not a single male of her generation or her children's generation within her large family (or in her circle of Jewish friends) was ever circumcised."
- Nelly Karsenty
Humanistic Judaism, 1988; 16(3): 14-20.


"I should like to suggest to my fellow Jews that perhaps the time has come to redeem the foreskin itself, rather than sacrifice it. Surely some substitute might be found for this rite, ... that would be preferable to this assault upon and mutilation of a newborn infant..."
- Professor George Wald, M.D
Harvard University Professor, Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine


" would be anti-Semitic of us if we didn't defend Jewish babies along with other children. We respect what is beautiful in every religion or culture and speak out against what is brutal. All cultures and religions are capable of evolving."
- Mary Conant, R.N. and Betty Katz Sperlich, R.N. (a Jewish mother), founding members of "Nurses for the Rights of the Child", America's largest union of Nurses who refuse to participate in circumcisions.

"I was raised as a Jew and yet I never even considered circumcising my sons. Reason told me that God or nature doesn't make mistakes. Obviously there is a vast intelligence behind all of life, and just as our eyes have eyelids to protect them, foreskins must serve a similar purpose.
When all is said and done, circumcision is really a human rights issue. What right do any of us have to permanently remove a normal, healthy, sensitive part of another person's body without their consent? I have no problem with an adult male who chooses to be circumcised. I do have a problem with an adult who makes that decision for a child. I have known too many men, both Jewish and Christian, who resent the fact that they were circumcised."
- Laura Shanley


" can be found from many Jewish sources for the view that circumcision of infants is unethical and should therefore be abandoned... Now is the time to lay the knife aside and to move forward into the 21st century with a form of ritual that is truly welcoming and that is truly purely symbolic."
- J. Goodman, MD
Jewish circumcision: an alternative perspective. BJU Int 1999; 83 Suppl 1:22-27.


"AS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS - including a sizable number of American Jews  - question the act of male circumcision , a group of San Francisco activists are advocating to ban circumcision... Many of the leading activists against circumcision around the country are Jewish."
Jerusalem Post, Challenging the Circumcision Myth, April 10, 2011

"In Israel, opposition to circumcision has happened in just two decades, and now these “rebels” number in the tens of thousands, according to Ronit Tamir, founder of Kahal, a support group for parents who choose not to circumcise their children."
Jewish World, 3/11/2010.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The "Mommy Page" Wars

Lately, it seems a lot of "mommy pages" have sought to increase their viewership by bringing on the circumcision debate.

The most reliable way to start a thread that attracts 100+ comments on any parenting page, is to make infant circumcision the topic.

What are "mommy pages?"

Ostensibly they're parenting forums where moms, and sometimes dads, can come and glean, share or otherwise exchange parenting experiences and advice for the betterment of parenting, and hopefully, the betterment of the children being raised.

Or at least one would hope.

A lot of these, however, tend to be gathering places for like-minded parents who want nothing more than validation from others for what they've already decided to do with their children. Basically, they're mutual ego masturbation sessions where parents go to pat each other on the back and give each other high-fives.

"No one wants advice - only corroboration."
~John Steinbeck

They range from major mainstream online parenting forums, like CafeMom, BabyCenter, Baby Gaga, TheBump, etc., to "mommy pages" on Facebook, where they tend to have cute, but feisty little names like "kickass mommies," "uncensored mommas," or "I'm a mom, I got this."

The names try to give the impressions that they're places for parents to sound off and anything goes.

In reality, though, depending on the nature of the managers of the pages, they're places where the opinions and the nature of pages are already pretty much set, and where you've really got to walk around eggshells, so as to not upset other parents, namely the creators of said pages.

If you've got a dissenting view, you've got to be real careful to couch it, sugar coat it, and coddle others that disagree with you in attempts to get it heard. Dissenting views (or, actually, advice and experiences that upset other parents) tend to be silenced, deleted or blocked as "bashing" or "harassment."

In fact, when a lot of these "mommy pages" dare to bring on the circumcision debate, they always have to preclude, in all capital letters, with expressions such as "NO BASHING!" Or "HARRASSING COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED, AND USERS BANNED IMMEDIATELY!"

Harrassment? Or Inconvenient Truths?
It's interesting what passes for "harassment" nowadays. Yes, I'm sure internet trolls exist in the intactivism movement; they exist in every walk of life.

But, it seems, on "mommy sites," on and off Facebook, any suggestion that circumcision might be a bad idea is considered "bashing" or "harassment," and is often deleted, and the poster blocked, no matter how diplomatic and respectful the comment may actually have been. Sometimes the entire thread is removed altogether, because it's just too much for the admins to handle. Nobody wants to consider the possibility that they may have actually made a mistake.

Parents go on these forums which are obviously for the purpose of dispensing and exchanging parental advice, they post their story, asking for every one's opinions, and then cry "bashing" and "harassment" when they don't get the validation they were looking for.

What I find almost comical is the way parents get on their high horse about the matter, and retort with snappy one-liners such as "whether or not I decide to circumcise my kids is none of your business." Or "don't you tell me how to raise my kids."

Another common one is "how dare you assume I don't have the good sense to research the subject for myself!"

Even though, they ARE, for all intents and purposes, seeking advice on a parenting advice forum. Many moms and dads who utter statements as the above also had the audacity to START their own "mommy" page to dispense advice to others.

Exchange on most other aspects of parenting (breast feeding, co-sleeping, car seats, slings, etc) is allowed. But anything other than "it's your choice" and "it's harmless and beneficial" regarding circumcision is considered "bashing," "harassment," "disrespectful," and "insulting."

Quite frankly, if parents didn't want to be "harassed" regarding their son's circumcision, why even bring it up? If they're "so confident" and "so informed" on their "decisions," why seek validation on the Internet?

On a parenting forum?

On Facebook?

Where millions of viewers can see?

It's rather immature, almost mentally unstable, to be making a post asking for other people's opinions, on an open parenting forum, where millions of other moms and dads can see, and opine, and then call it "bashing" and "harassment" when you don't get the validation you were expecting. It's rather self-contradictory to be posting part of your life on the internet, seeking out others' opinions, and then turn around and say "it's none of your business; don't tell me how to raise my child."

I see a lot more "bashing" and name-calling from defensive moms and dads who circumcised their sons than from those who decided against it. Right after comments against circumcision get deleted, and people are banned, those who remain proceed to speak ill of those who disagreed with them in their absence.

On a side note, I'd like to touch on defensive remarks to the effect of "how dare you think I'm not smart enough to do my own research!" It is impolite to insinuate that a parent is not so bright as to inform themselves on an issue that affects their children. The fact of the matter is, though, that one is not automatically smart and enlightened in child-rearing by mere virtue of being a parent. No parent knows it all. If this were true, then there wouldn't be a need for parenting forums and mommy pages. 

The fact of the matter is, however, that no respected medical organization endorses male infant circumcision. The AAP tried to in their last statement, but stopped short. All medical organizations in the West state that the current body of evidence is insufficient to recommend the circumcision of infants. It is fallacious to expect lay parents to examine the same body of evidence, and come up with a more reasonable conclusion than that of entire organizations of medical professionals. It is not possible, then, that parents who chose to allow their children to be circumcised "did their research."

It is medically fraudulent that parents are being allowed to make a "choice" that is inconsistent with the conclusions of entire organizations of medical professionals, that doctors pretend that they can comply with such a "choice," and that public coffers are expected to reimburse them.

A Disservice to Parents and Their Children
Why do page admins delete "bashing" and "harassment" on their pages and forums? (In other words, factual information that may make other parents uncomfortable?) My theory is that, a lot of them are more interested in being the center of an online parenting forum than they are about dispensing factually accurate information. They aim to people please and earn and keep "likes" on their pages.

Deleting posts that upset parents who have made the irreversible decision to circumcise their sons makes you look like a hero.

What good is a parenting or "mommy" forum, where basically, instead of advice or exchange of accurate information, its people giving each other validation and reassurance?

The problem with only allowing "supportive," feel-good posts that pander to circumcising parents, and deleting factual information as "bashing," "harassment" and whatnot, is that a lot of misinformation is circulated.

Myths are spread, and children suffer as a result.

Stifling the circumcision debate may keep parents from getting upset and boost online egos, but it doesn't help anybody.

For example, it is accepted medical knowledge that you don't forcibly retract a child's foreskin "for cleaning." Research shows that the foreskin often remains non-retractable until, and even after the onset of puberty. These actions actually hurt your child and put him at risk for infection.

And yet "mommy sites" will often delete this very important information as "bashing" and "harassment," however respectfully presented, and will allow misinformative posts that "warn" parents who do not circumcise their children that they will have to forcibly retract their children to "clean."

As more and more parents are choosing to keep their children's genitals intact, the proper care of normal genitals is important information that parents need to be made aware of, if they don't want to inadvertently hurt their child.

Deleting factual information as "bashing" and "harassment," and blocking the users which disseminate it might spare parents who circumcised their children anxiety, but it doesn't help parents who are seeking to make an informed choice, or their children, totally defeating the purpose of a parenting website.

A Sign of Progress
It's rather self-serving the way "mommy site" admins want to take advantage of the circumcision debate to boost their viewership and "likes" on Facebook, but don't want to actually allow true debate, accusing users that make good points of "bashing" and "harassment," however polite they were, for the sake of popularity.

This seems to be working in favor of intactivism, though.

It used to be the case (and in many cases still is the case) that the circumcision conversation was strictly off limits, and people wanted the conversation to end full stop.

That "mommy sites" now want to host the circumcision debate as an attention booster, even with heavy editing and accusations of "bashing" and "harassment" is truly a sign of the times.

Moms and dads are being forced to come to the table talk about, and consider an issue they once hoped would be a bygone parenting "decision," like deciding what brand of diapers or wet tissues to use.

People are talking, which means circumcision is no longer this taboo "non-issue" you can slide underneath the carpet and pretend never existed.

Some mommy sites actually aren't that bad, and allow links and posts that polite and informative. On the whole though, there's a lot of sugar-coating and coddling of circumcising parents going on.

You can ban people and delete comments you don't agree with, but the circumcision debate is here and it's not going to go away.

"Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all."

Moral of the story:

"When you ask for advice on the Internet, don't call it "bashing" because it's not what you want to hear."

"If you didn't want it, then you shouldn't have brought it."

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