Banning circumcision in San Francisco

You know, normally, using the law to insist that other conform to your sexual preferences is considered naughty.

\”When a group of activists proposed banning circumcision in San Francisco last fall, many people simply brushed them aside. Even in that liberal seaside city, it seemed implausible that thousands of people would support an effort to outlaw an ancient ritual that Jews and Muslims believe fulfills a commandment issued by God.

\”But last month, the group collected the more than 7,100 signatures needed to get a measure on the fall ballot that would make it illegal to snip the foreskin of a minor within city limits.

At least I assume it\’s the uncutistes running this campaign.

39 thoughts on “Banning circumcision in San Francisco”

  1. I support the banning myself, as I think, in the same way a woman should be given the choice as to whether she has an abortion or not, a guy should be given the choice as to whether he has a bit of his body cut off.

    Everyone keeps banging on about how it’s impinging people’s “religious freedom”s. But these are only the freedoms of the parents that are being impinged on: at no point is the child allowed a say. Sure, raise the kid in the faith of the parents, but don’t make any permanent alterations to their body without their say so.

    Female circumcision is common in Africa [Wikipedia] and is ‘generally agreed’ to be a Bad Thing. Why is it that that practise (which has also been around for a Long Time) is deemed bad but Jewish/Muslim circumcision is a no-go area?

    And a quick Google brings back plenty of Jews themselves who are against the circumcision – does that mean they’re anti-Semitic as well or is it just when an outsider dares to have an opinion that that phrase is brought out?

  2. “You know, normally, using the law to insist that other conform to your sexual preferences is considered naughty.”

    I have no idea what this sentence is intended to mean. The issue is whether parents should be allowed to mutilate their children, not “sexual preferences”. It is entirely liberal, and libertarian, to restrain persons from directly injuring others. Since children are not considered competent adults- and babies quite clearly are not- adults have a duty to not infringe upon them in this manner. If an adult wants to cut bits off his penis, or even castrate himself, that is his business. But a child deserves protection in law, for the same reason as the law restrains adults from buggering babies. The baby cannot give consent.

    As to the sick fuck above who would go to a “circumcision party”, words fail me. Baby buggery party cancelled, was it?

    Tim adds: I was wondering whether my (not very good) joke would be recognised for what it is. It’s fairly standard in hte gay community (if that’s what we’re suppsed to call it these days) to be interested in whether potential sexual partners are “cut or uncut” and as this is a proposal from San Francisco….

  3. Philip Scott Thomas

    …who would go to a “circumcision party”

    Lots of people. It’s called a seudat mitzvah and it follows a bris.

  4. Referring to ‘female circumcision’ doesn’t aid clear thinking on the issue, since that’s a euphemism for genital mutilation, the purpose being to deprive women of sexual pleasure, whereas a circumcised man can still have a good time in the sack, I’m told, even if some also say that they’d prefer the option of wearing their foreskins off by friction.

    Man needs his watch repairing, sees a shop window full of watches, goes in to the shop. The owner says, ‘Sorry, I’m a mohel.’ (Look it up.) ‘Why the watches?’ says the man. ‘So what would you put in the window?’ says the mohel.

  5. What Ian B said. This has zero to to with ‘sexual freedom’, and everything to do with cutting bits off babies or children who cannot consent.

    Which I for one consider A Bad Thing.

  6. Female genital mutilation: rightly deplored.

    Male genital mutilation: comedy time!

    …even if some also say that they’d prefer the option of wearing their foreskins off by friction.

    Good grief.

  7. What’s illiberal about banning this crude form of child abuse?

    So taking out an appendix is a cruel form of child abuse too?

    There are plenty of reasons for the operation, and plenty of evidence for the health benefits of it (including those accruing to women).

    I suggest taking the ersatz moral outrage and religious fervour out the debate and look at it on a purely rational basis.

  8. KT – genuinely surprised you’re on the illiberal side of the debate here. Unless you’ve actually got a non-retactatible foreskin (in which case, doctors are quite important), there are no dedemonstrable anti-STD benefits from male genital mutilation. It’s less horrid than FGM, but only be degree rather than in principle; I’m certainly not getting it done and I’d never go with a lady who’d had it done. FFS.

    Tim adds: this is a tad strong: “there are no dedemonstrable anti-STD benefits from male genital mutilation.”

    1) Genital mutilation is rather giving away one’s position.

    2) Transmission of HIV and other STDs really is lower from those who have been snipped.

    Now, whether those benefits are worth the disbenefits is worth arguing about. But “Jews are scum (and BTW, so are Muslims the largest religious group which perform them) because they chop bits off boys” isn’t the way to debate it.

  9. When I was born in the USA in 1949, male circumcision was a routine operation performed for ‘health’ reasons on most baby boys, me included. When my sons were born, 25 years (or so) later, fashion had changed, and babies were no longer circumcised, including mine.
    That’s the basis of this controversy: fashion. There are no appreciable ill effects from male circumcision, and there may be some positive benefits. The child is not harmed. Leave the decision to the parents, not to the busybodies.

  10. Appreciable ill effects? Part of the body is missing. I know that’s a bit hard to get one’s head around, but this part that once was there is no longer there. It’s gone. For no reason. A part which evolved to (a) act as a protective cover for the glans penis and (b) provide pleasurable sensation during sex. It’s been taken away. That is by definition an “ill effect”. It is by definitionharm. The child is most definitely harmed.

    Additionally, it is an operation on a delicate part of the body which can go wrong. It does not frequently go wrong, but it does sometimes. And the effects of damaging a penis are devastating; the boy will not be able to marry, have children, have sex. That is a huge psychological burden to risk for no reason whatsoever.

    What is infuriating about this “controversy” is the sheer dismissiveness of the pro-mutilators, and society in general. “Pfft, just a cock, who cares?” If this were an issue affecting girls, we would be (rightly) up in arms about it. There would be women marching in the streets.

    But little boys? Nobody gives a damn.

  11. “There are plenty of reasons for the operation, and plenty of evidence for the health benefits of it (including those accruing to women).”

    Alternatively, you can have a regular shower and wash properly.

  12. @ 13:
    Quite so. I was ‘cut’ for medical reasons when I was 4. Absolutely, no problem, subsequently. Very hygienic, apparently; and my women seem to like it. So what’s the problem? Do I sense another ‘victim-group’ in the making? After all, today, a victim is the thing to be…

  13. Do I sense another ‘victim-group’ in the making? After all, today, a victim is the thing to be…

    Well people do seem to get very upset about tails being docked from animals that we are then going to kill and eat, so getting upset about humans being docked but not eaten is, I suppose, par for the course.

    Tim adds: I getting eaten more (or less) was part of the circumcision deal most men would be a lot more interested in it.

  14. KT – genuinely surprised you’re on the illiberal side of the debate here.

    Well I would hardly call it illiberal: having people dictate to parents how they choose to look after their kids is illiberal (and we must surely give the benefit of any doubt to the parents and not the ‘professions’ of the state).

    Not having your kid vaccinated is a worse example, but I expect that all the commentators here would flip over to the other side and deny the right of the state to dictate that parents must look out for the health of their kids.

    There’s also the other major reason, a purely personal one: I don’t really give a toss. It’s so low down on the list of outrages that I’m all outraged out way before I get to it. Mind you, it is a source of mildly risqué but quite funny jokes, e.g. @16.

  15. There’s also the other major reason, a purely personal one: I don’t really give a toss.

    Women: not giving a shit about anything that doesn’t personally affect them since 1750.

    It is an extremely serious issue. If you care about children, and about rights, you should care about this. Parents do not own children in the way they own inert property. Nobody believes they do, not the most avid “leave my family alone” conservative. Tell them the next door neighbour is having sex with his kids, and see the reaction.

    A parent is in the same position as any carer, e.g. of a senile parent, or a disabled person. You have a duty of care. If you cannot or will not dicharge that duty, you need to find somebody who can and will. Your primary duty is to preserve your ward from harm. If you deliberately harm your ward, expect to go to court and prison. It is that simple.

    Parents are not allowed to starve children, to sexually abuse them, or submit them to arbitrary acts of violence. This one anachronism, justified for one camp by tradition and by another camp by sheer fucking stupidity, needs stopping; if necessary involving courts and prisons. Why? The reason above. It is deliberate violence in violation of a duty of care.

    It is not a matter of differences of opinion of how to look after kids; because by definition submitting them to an act of violence is doing the opposite of looking after them.

    Ignoring the Jews for a moment- who are generally well educated enough to know better, but prey to this absurd ancient tribal ritual- widespread circumcision in the USA began, as with most mad ideas, with the “Progressive” side of the spectrum; a particular public health doctor in New York who convinced himself that circumcision would cure all manner of “nervous” diseases which are now no longer even considered to exist. It was pure quackery. It spread on the back of the Progressivist panic about sex and masturbation. It was touted as a prophylactic against syphillis, the AIDS of its day. All typical Progressivist bullshit.

    But because it was part of the last “liberal” wave, conservatives defend it. Because heh, my daddy had it done to me, and hey, nothing wrong with me, nosiree!

    So, down to basics. It is indefensible. It has no purpose. There is no conceivable reason why this operation would be considered perfunctory. But then, you can just leave all those newborn, defenseless babies having their foreskins torn off, because well, you “don’t give a toss”.

    Bottom line: you look at your new son and think, “thank god he’s healthy”, congratulations you’re normal. You look at him and think, “I really really want to rip the most sensitive part of his penis off”, congratulations, you’re a sick fuck.

    No joking matter.

  16. One thing nobody has mentioned is the hospital and/or doctor’s incentives. A freshly-snipped foreskin can be sold for thousands of dollars for use in cosmetics and for skin grafts. If your doctor tells you “it’s for health reasons”, ask how much he’s being paid for each one.

    Link[1]: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-cut-above-the-rest-wrin

    Link[2]: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/11/yuck-markets-in-everything.html

  17. Kay Tie et al:

    If there are health benefits then let the person whose body it is make their own choice when they are old enough to make their own choice. STDs are not relevant to babies and infants, thus this is not a reasonto circumcise those who cannot give consent.

  18. At this rate there will be ranting about cutting umbilical cords: all those prom night dumpster babies missing out on swinging away while singing a song.

  19. @Kay Tie: You are so way off beam here, its not even remotely funny. In fact it shows you in a very unbecoming light. If you cannot see the wrongness in operating on children’s genitals for no reason other than tradition and superstition you need to examine your moral compass asap.

  20. Well for once I agree with the prodnosing bansturbators. Boil the specific, down to the generic principle.Should parents be allowed to make irreversible alterations to their kids? The public, via their agencies of the state, have a responsibility for the protection of children. As individuals.
    Medical and surgical procedures on children, should only be performed to address their own health needs. They are not bloody accessories, like a handbag.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    Monty – “Boil the specific, down to the generic principle.Should parents be allowed to make irreversible alterations to their kids? The public, via their agencies of the state, have a responsibility for the protection of children. As individuals.”

    I tend to agree that permanent alternations on defenceless infants is not a good idea, but consider the alternative here – we would give the state the power to decide what is or is not best for children. It is one small step from that to charge parents with child abuse if they allow their little ones to eat McDonald’s twice a week. The power of the state seems the greater evil here. In every way.

    “Medical and surgical procedures on children, should only be performed to address their own health needs.”

    I agree. But who is to decide? I worry about people who get worked up about a change they were too young to remember that probably has no bad effects on them whatsoever, but I think on the whole people shouldn’t do it. But on the other hand, it is supported by 2,500 years of tradition, it has no adverse side effects and some generally decent, responsible people really really want to do it. We should let them.

    The enemy are those who stand over parents’ shoulders passing judgement.

  22. There are a number of medical conditions which require circumcision as a treatment, like when the foreskin has adhered to the glans. Not uncommon, and only slightly inconvenient, except that it can make sex rather uncomfortable and leaves the sufferer subject to urinary tract infections. Best treated early.

    A ban on such a treatment, presumably for idealogical reasons, is just plain nuts.

  23. I really cannot see how it can be justified unless there is a specific medical need for a particular child.

    Surely the only right thing to do is leave well alone and 18 years later the individual involved can decide for themselves what they want to do.

    Tattooing is the closest example I can think of. Assuming it’s in an equally hidden place, groin, arse, it’s pointless, relatively harmless but is a permanent body modification that the later adult cannot reverse and had no say over. I don’t think many of us would defend a parent’s right to have their child tattooed.

  24. Oh, everyone should respect cultural traditions.
    Even brand new ones.
    Tattooing newborn baby girls with a tramp stamp & a butterfly on the shoulder & the boys with the emblem of the local football team would be so popular in some quarters.
    It’s not as if anyone could object………

  25. @So Much,

    You aren’t giving the state any power here, you are giving the power to the person who owns the body. No one is suggesting that adults or even mature adolescents will be prevented from consenting to circumcision.

    @winston, sure there are a few medical conditions requiring circumcision. No one is suggesting banning circumcision in those circumstances – parents have to make genuine medical decisions for their children for better or worse. However, most western circumcision has been done for a whole host of spurious medical conditions, including in one person I know a “loose” foreskin. We should be on guard against further fake conditions being used as an excuse in future.

  26. Wow, a really heated debate, a cut above the rest.

    * Circumcision is wrong, though not in the same league as the female equivalent
    * I agree that banning it might be worse than the crime itself
    * I am less than surprised that Nazi style caricatures were used

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    winston – “I don’t think many of us would defend a parent’s right to have their child tattooed.”

    I would condemn a parent who did it. But I would not want the state to check every child to make sure none of them *are* tatoo’ed and to remove any children from any parent that was found to have done so.

    29 bloke in spain – “Oh, everyone should respect cultural traditions. Even brand new ones.”

    No they should not. But traditions that are thousands of years old and dearly held should be respected. Especially when they go to the heart of the identity of any particular minority.

    “Tattooing newborn baby girls with a tramp stamp & a butterfly on the shoulder & the boys with the emblem of the local football team would be so popular in some quarters.”

    Would it? Why would this be such a bad thing if it was done? Again, reason to remove the child?

    30 JamesV – “You aren’t giving the state any power here, you are giving the power to the person who owns the body.”

    Alas, you are right. They have the power to remove children as it is. But certainly the child is not being empowered. They cannot consent. No one is asking them. This is a straight up battle between the parents and the government over who is the best guardian for the child until such time as the child is an adult. By and large I think that is the parent. If they want to do this we ought to allow them. The alternative is that the government becomes the de facto guardian of all children.

    “No one is suggesting that adults or even mature adolescents will be prevented from consenting to circumcision.”

    I agree. That is a side issue.

  28. “No they should not. But traditions that are thousands of years old and dearly held should be respected. Especially when they go to the heart of the identity of any particular minority.”

    Nope. This argument is frequently used but has zero merit. The question of what should be legal now is unaffected by what was legal or desirable a thousand or two thousand years ago. The people to whom the ancient state applied are dead and gone. The only condition that matters is the now.

    The argument that this is an “invitation to prodnoses” could be applied to any law restraining an individual against another. Under western liberal/common law principles, the purpose of the law is to intervene when one person violates another’s defined person or property. The body itself is the most personal of that property.

    The precedent for intervention in such situations is at the very heart of our legal value system. “You have attacked me. I will now call a constable”. When a person is incapable of acting on their own behalf (a child, a senile person, a person in a coma, a murder victim etc etc) the law acts on their behalf.

    There is nothing abnormal about the law acting in this case, therefore. On the contrary, this is a singular anachronism. We basically say, “you may not aggress against a child except cutting his foreskin off”. Removal of this exceptional case would simply produce consistency in the law. It is no more an intervention by prodnoses than the de facto prohibition on stubbing cigarettes out on your child, or breaking their legs for a bit of fun.

    The reality is that even those who argue most vociferously that the parents are owners of their children do not really believe that parents have carte blanche. I gave the example above of sexual molestation. Nobody, nobody accepts the argument, “he is my baby son, I can sodomise him if I like, prodnoses should leave me alone”. Children are not inert property. They are human beings.

    A parent is indeed a guardian. If they do not guard, but instead assault, it is appropriate for the law to intervene.

    Also, none of the medical arguments are relevant to the issue of routine circumcision. To say that removal of the foreskin may be appropriate in some minority of children with a medical condition (and it is debatable how many of those really need it) is not justification for performing the operation on healthy children. It is appropriate to amputate a gangrenous limb. That does not justify amputations by parental fiat.

    The overwhelming majority of baby boys’ penises are healthy, normal, functional organs. “First, do no harm…”

  29. @So Much,

    That adults can choose to be circumcised is not a side issue at all. It’s an incontrovertible reason for not permitting the circumcision of those unable to consent, for you can instead give them the choice themselves once they are able to consent.

  30. Having no dog whatsoever in the fight makes being a spectator at this conflict of rights debate particularly fascinating.
    “..traditions that are thousands of years old and dearly held should be respected.”
    Nigerian girl I know’s got both cheeks scarred up. Common in West Africa. Cultural tradition going back thousands of years. Done when she was about twelve, I gather.
    OK if that was done in the UK?

  31. Okay, let’s leave aside the hysteria and look at one cold, hard fact – research in Africa has shown that there is a direct correlation between reduced incidence of HIV infection and circumcision. Infection by other STDs also appears to follow this trend.

    Now let’s examine another cold hard fact – infant circumcision, as practiced by the Jews and Muslims, is a quick and relatively painless affair. For adults it involves hospitals, operating theatres etc etc*. If we assume the parents do have the best interests of the child at heart (and not just spiritually) which do you think is better?

    *We’ll not mention the African tradition which is “quick” but done at the age of thirteen in so-called circumcision ceremonies conducted in the bush.

  32. The African research is dubious statistical research, by activists, of the type we are all surely highly suspicious by now. There are numerous criticisms of it; google is your friend here. Like most modern progressivisms, it is a revival of Victorian ideas (circumcision was supposed to protect against syphilis too. Ho hum). There are various obvious confounding factors- dropout rates, the fact that the circumcised cohort were primarily muslim, the non-circumcised were not, and so on.

    Furthermore, even if there is some difference in infection rates, remember that AIDS took off in the USA among predominantly circumcised gay men.

    Would you tell American circumcised men that they are safe from HIV? They aren’t, are they? Alright for darkies though, is it?

    Even if the research is kosher, which it almost certainly isn’t, circumcision is still not a meaningful prophylactic against AIDS. Would you order the mutilation of every man in Western Europe rather than have them use condoms or practise safe sex? You wouldn’t. It’s useless.

    infant circumcision, as practiced by the Jews and Muslims, is a quick and relatively painless affair.

    Painless compared to what exactly, disembowelment?

  33. Actually your African research did not demonstrate a reduced incidence of HIV, it demonstrated a (slightly) reduced rate of female to male transmission of HIV. Subtle but important difference.

    Among those criticisms are that the effect on male to female transmission (more likely to start with) was not considered – and here the increased reluctance of the circumcised to use condoms could quickly mitigate against any real, biological effect that circumcision does have.

    I’m still waiting to hear why this has to be done so urgently to babies rather than letting mentally competent adults or adolescents decide for themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *