Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sexism, Circumcision, And The CDC

The federal government is sticking it's nose in places that it just doesn't belong again. This time it's your baby's genitals. Sounds creepy, doesn't it?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released draft guidelines endorsing the routine mutilation of infant male genitalia. Also known as circumcision, the tribal ritual of slashing off the tip of  male penises has it's origins in religious practices of ancient Jewish and Muslim peoples. Today, most of the developed world has rejected the unnecessary practice, except the US which still has more than half of it's newborn boys leaving behind portions of their penises when they head home from the hospital.

Infant circumcision is a relatively new "tradition" in the United States. It was not prevalent as a routine medical procedure until the end of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, Victorian era doctor, John Harvey Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame promoted it as a way to keep boys from masturbating. It doesn't take a sexually repressed Victorian to realize that his idea was not a huge success. That might also be why we remember him for his bland breakfast cereal rather than his profound medical theories.

Since circumcision was such a grand victory in the war on masturbation, and most countries in the civilized world aren't practicing it without medical necessity, you might wonder what's up with the CDC. Well... some studies suggest that circumcised men in African countries (where HIV is an epidemic) have a lower rate of HIV than those men who still retain their foreskins. (There are some European studies with differing results, but the CDC, for some reason, gives more relevance to the African studies, in spite of American circumstances being more comparable to those of Europe than Sub-Saharan Africa. I smell an agenda.)

Still a possible reduction in HIV transmission sounds like a legit reason to just chop the ends of all baby penises, right? Probably not. European health officials have looked at the same studies, and come to very different conclusions. They aren't recommending mass surgical removal of healthy human tissue, and here's why...

Look! You have a perfectly healthy baby boy!
Now let's just chop off part of him. You know, just in case.
ALL men (even those who got to keep the ends of their penises) can reduce their risk of contracting HIV (and a whole host of other nasty STDs to boot) if they wear a condom. No genital mutilation necessary. In a country like the United States, where condoms are readily available and easily accessible, the butchering of infant genitalia seems extreme.

Chopping off part of a baby boy's penis because it might someday decrease his chance of contracting a disease that might kill him is like sawing off a baby girl's breasts because she might someday contract breast cancer which might kill her. Seems extreme, don't you think? Only, as crazy as it sounds, removing the breasts of little girls makes more sense. Breast removal actually completely prevents someone from ever getting breast cancer. Foreskin removal doesn't prevent HIV or penile cancer or any other STD... it simply seems to lower the chances slightly. And considering breast cancer is far more deadly and far more common than penile cancer (another reason the CDC seems to think little boys should be separated from their foreskins), it makes me wonder what the doctors over at the CDC are smoking... or what they have against men.

But condom usage helps prevent penile cancer, too  by lowering the risk of HPV infection. Maybe the CDC should spend it's time promoting regular condom use (or dare I say abstinence... I don't want to go too far). Easy Peasy. Sex education is a marvelous thing.

Plus without the push for routine circumcision, those babies (which grow up to be men) would get to keep the 20,000 nerve endings that fifteen square inches of foreskin contains. And men, if you think sex is just dandy without your foreskin... just imagine what it would be like if you still had the 75% of your penile nerves that got tossed out in the hospital's biological waste bin. Don't want to wear a condom? Would you do it in exchange for all those ecstasy bringing nerves the doctors are throwing in the trash?

While the CDC maintains that male infant circumcision will remain voluntary, I'm not sure there will be a lot of newborns standing in line to "volunteer" for the procedure. No, the majority of men have the procedure forced on them before they even have a voice to protest. In a world where feminists chant "My Body, My Choice!", men often aren't given the choice of  basic bodily integrity. No personal autonomy or self-determination over their own bodies here. But they're just men. They'll get over it.

It seems pertinent to point out here, that there is a federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation that explicitly prohibits the circumcision of any female under the age of eighteen (even for religious reasons... after 18 she can choose for herself). Which is a big-time huge glaring double standard. Not to mention a direct violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That's the one that includes the Equal Protection Clause providing equal protection (go figure) under the law to all people, regardless of class or gender or race or... well anything.

Why are women's genitalia so much more sacred than men's?

Even if there are possible benefits to circumcision, we could just let men, when they reach adulthood, weigh the pros and cons and choose for themselves.

But some people argue that it's best to do it when they are infants so that they won't remember. It's less cruel that way.


The procedure is most often performed on infants strapped down, without anesthesia, who have no concept of what's happening to them. At least a cognizant adult understands why they are in excruciating pain. Plus adult men get the added benefit of being knocked out while their genitals are being mutilated. (It keeps the doctors from getting knocked out in the process.)

And just because grown men can't seem to remember their circumcision doesn't mean that first painfully traumatic memory isn't buried somewhere deep in the psyche. Having one of the most sensitive parts of the body ripped open and severed with no pain relief and no comfort is not exactly the best sort of welcome to the world. That sort of trauma leaves behind scars both physical and emotional. (I'm no medical or psychological expert, but I have to wonder if such a brutal and violent first genital experience helps breed desire for more violent sexual experiences later in life.)

Also, just because they can't remember it doesn't mean it didn't happen. If we are going to use the "they won't remember it anyway" argument, we should probably make that one gender inclusive too. Rape? Are you kidding. She's too drunk to remember it anyway. Is it really rape if she doesn't remember?


Yes it is.

Just like circumcision is a barbaric and painful violation of personal bodily integrity, even if he doesn't remember it. Forget the gender wage gap or catcalling on the streets of New York, routine infant circumcision is THE most sexist practice in our culture.

The conspiracy theorist in me whispers that the CDC's sweeping recommendation to amputate sensitive chunks of male penises is just one more way society (and the government) is emasculating men. That's right guys, even your penises aren't safe.

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