The First Cut Is the Deepest: The Circumcision Debate

photo via Flickr

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 “inactivists”!) 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?”
  • Babble.com 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.

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  1. The idea that men are “victimized” by circumcision is ludicrous. I and most males I know are cut, and no one feels in any way hurt or robbed.

    Arguing against it on other grounds are fine, but can we please drop this ridiculous reasoning?

  2. The legal system should not criminalize one preference over another. I am not aware of tens of thousands of people who feel they were “harmed”.

    But why stop there. Let’s legalize ear-piercing on kids so they are not “harmed”. Better stop kids going to school so they are not harmed by the bullying they will get from some students.

    We must also stop bathing kids, who have a right to privacy. Their lost of dignity must be protected by law.

  3. Two things I’m curious about:
    1. Men who are circumcized seem to think that being uncircumcized is gross. This is just a common attitude that I have heard. Are they just misinformed or something more?

    2. How many uncircumsized boys grow up and decide to get circumsized as adults?

  4. You misquoted the babble article and gave the impression the lover was circumcised when in fact he is not. The author then opts not to perform the procedure on any of his three boys.

  5. I’m circumcised too and find that I like a bit of everything, and if anything, prefer it slow. I’ve wondered if years of furious masturbation has impacted my sensitivity but it doesn’t seem that way.
    Also, ha ha anteater- go parliamentarians!

  6. I’m cut and like sex fast or slow and everything in between. I say no to the anteater!

  7. Mike, nice catch — typo is fixed now.

    Joshua, we’re suggesting, as we wrote in the post, that lack of foreskin might encourage a certain intercourse style in hetero men that is necessary for their own satisfaction but may not be ideal for typical female pleasure. Notice the mights and mays. Just an idea we think is worth considering.

  8. “Now that circumcision rates for boy in the U.S. is recently under 50% … , it’ll be interesting to see if over the next few decades … if the percentage of hetero women who orgasm during intercourse goes up at …”

    Er, are you suggesting that having a snipped foreskin makes you somehow bad in bed?

  9. I think there’s a typo there in the word ‘inactivists’, which should be ‘intactivists’ – a combination of the word ‘intact’ and ‘activist’.

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