Why Barbara Kay is wrong about circumcision

I was honored to meet Barbara Kay in Detroit at ICMI’14, where she spoke about men’s and boy’s issues to great applause, garnering a place in the hearts of MHRAs the world over. Rarely do prominent journalists in the MSM delve into politically incorrect movements such as ours, let alone speak and write publicly about it. Little did I know she had an enormous blind spot when it came to routine circumcision of baby boys, something I didn’t know at the time, but was already public.

In an outrageous article in 2011, Kay begins by setting aside the religious aspect of circumcision (as if the infant has told anyone what – if any – his religion is), and moves on to show her ignorance and indifference about male anatomy, ultimately revealing her tradcon reasons for her viewpoint.

From the article:

“’Mutilation’ is a disgusting word to apply to the excision of a non-essential bacteria trap, nearly painless and instantly forgotten (those who claim otherwise are fantasizing; no credible study demonstrates lasting effects). Unlike ordinary circumcised men, FGM victims know they have been mutilated in the real sense of the word. Feminists constantly remind us that men have all the power. If true, how is it that after so many thousands of years — coincidentally up to the advent of the sexual revolution and the privileging of erotic freedom over ethical mating — so many millions of intelligent and even powerful Jewish and Muslim males never spoke up about their alleged victimhood?

Set aside the rights-based rhetoric. It’s about sex: Circumcised men have greater pre-orgasmic endurance; non-circumcision permits more frequent ejaculations. What matters most to the anti-circumcision activists is their diminished pleasure with frequently changing sexual partners, as befits an era where the number of conquests is a more common metric of romantic success than long-term relationships. Our legislators have better things to worry about than this.”

So Kay thinks the foreskin is a “non-essential bacteria trap,” and it’s excision is “nearly painless and instantly forgotten?”

All human organs have a function, including the foreskin, which also harbor bacteria – good and bad – but that’s no reason for prophylactic amputation. Just as we don’t routinely remove parts of the vagina in the name of hygiene, we also don’t remove breast buds from infant females to prevent breast cancer. Using Kay’s logic we should do all that, plus outlaw cigarettes, outlaw liquor, outlaw fried foods, etc.

Kay unknowingly reveals that circumcision was done to minimize pleasure for men and boys when she shames intactivists in their quest for “erotic freedom,” believing male sexual pleasure would discourage “ethical mating”. I think that’s what feminism and the family courts are doing, not the foreskin.

Kay also ridicules the anti-circumcision movement’s focus on the “rights” of children, as if it’s some old-fashioned idea whose time is past.

In her latest article, she’s really stepped into it, claiming the “activist-inspired case” about the heart-breaking tale of 4-year-old Chase Hironimus forced to be circumcised by a court order is “put to bed” by a study authored by the infamous pro-circumcision activist Brian Morris. That’s like saying men’s rights issues have been “put to bed” by David Futrelle, or civil rights issues have been “put to bed” by David Duke.

A new review of circumcision published in the Canadian Journal of Urology is receiving keen attention. The lead author is Dr. Brian Morris, a professor emeritus on the University of Sydney’s school of medical science.

The study finds not only a lower risk for urinary tract infections (UTI) among circumcised males, a benefit long acknowledged that can preclude UTI-caused kidney damage, but a lower lifetime risk for penile cancer, a reduced risk for prostate cancer among black males, lower risk for HIV, genital herpes, the human papilloma virus (HPV), and syphilis. Dr. Morris and his American co-authors state, “We found that up to 65% of uncircumcised males might experience at least one of these [medical conditions] over their lifetime.” Their risk-benefit analysis of the procedure led them to conclude the benefits exceed the risks by about 100 to one. (In another study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Morris and colleagues found circumcision produced no adverse affect on sexual function or pleasure, a charge often leveled by anti-circumcision activist groups.)

Dr. Morris is a molecular biologist and an almost fanatical supporter of circumcision, resulting in highly questionable research. There are negligible benefits for routine infant circumcision, outweighed by the risks and ethical considerations involved, and no medical organization recommends it.

The report conflicts with the position held by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), namely that the benefits of circumcision do not outweigh the risks, and they therefore do not recommend it for male babies. By contrast, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is very much onside with the Morris report. Their policy is to recommend education about and access to infant male circumcision, as well as recommending that insurers pay for the procedure (Medicaid does not cover circumcision for the poor in 18 U.S. states). The AAP states: “The new findings show that infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination and that as such it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child’s health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen.”

If this were any other medical intervention, such findings would arouse no debate, and the recommendations would be followed without protest. But circumcision is a social-tension magnet, and the politically correct perspective on foreskins is ‘let it be.’ The current position of the CPS, which used to recommend circumcision, is to all appearances a reflection of the moral power accorded anti-circumcision activists.

For thousands of years of recorded history, in fact until 50 years ago, circumcision was a culturally-rooted practice that aroused no controversy whatsoever. On the contrary, based on hygienic reasoning, the practice spread from cultural groups to the population at large. In the 1960s, 83% of American, and about 70% of Canadian males were circumcised. But these numbers fell dramatically when the issue came under the scrutiny of anti-patriarchal gender activists as (erroneously) an equivalent practice to female genital mutilation (FGM). Today the national Canadian rate is about 32% and the U.S. rate about 77%.

Despite your refusal to compare MGM to FGM, what “other medical intervention” would be comparable to circumcision? Should we also let the vagina “be,” even though it’s a “bacteria trap?”

The CPS could not condemn the practice on grounds of increased morbidity. After thousands of years of what is essentially a controlled study with virtually all Jewish men, with a large percentage of Muslim men on one side, and uncircumcised men on the other, it has been unequivocally concluded that circumcision presents no health risks; quite the contrary, as we shall see.

So the lines had to be drawn on moral issues, like pain inflicted, and the lack of consent, or negative medical outcomes such as bleeding, infection, an “unsatisfactory cosmetic result,” or in rare cases deformation and amputation of the penis or death from haemorrhage or sepsis. The CPS cites a risk figure of 1.5% for such medical complications. Imputing this figure to “sloppy scholarship,” Morris’s team estimates the combined frequency of adverse events at 0.4% overall, arguing that “the cumulative frequency of medical conditions attributable to [having an intact foreskin] was approximately 100-fold higher” than the cumulative risk of circumcision.

First you conclude there are “no health risks,” then list bleeding, infection, and deformation, all the way up to death. There are obvious risks, with no mitigating medical reason to visit this risk on unconsenting babies.

As for moral arguments, both the “pain” and “consent” lines of defence are weak. The pain inflicted is so fleeting many babies barely register notice (in any case continuing advances in pain diminution are rendering that argument completely obsolete), and as for “consent,” vaccinations are routinely given to children without their consent. It is true that circumcision is different from vaccinations in that the integrity of the external body is changed by circumcision. But then one might say – and anti-vaxxers do say – that the integrity of the child’s natural internal system is forever changed by vaccinations. As for complications arising from the procedure, they are statistically rare when performed by qualified and experienced surgeons or “mohels,” ritual circumcisionists, as rare as untoward consequences from dental procedures and other medical procedures like tonsillectomies (also performed without consent).

“Consent” arguments are weak? Are you insane?

Then you make my point for me – amputation of healthy tissue is not a vaccination.

The single most irrational argument one often sees is the charge of moral equivalency between circumcision and female genital mutilation. FGM is a phenomenon that is, apart from both affecting the genitals, quite separate from circumcision. Unlike circumcision, which removes an unnecessary piece of skin, in no way prevents natural and satisfying sexual function, FGM is a misogynistic practice created as a means for men to control women, meant to prevent sexual desire and gratification in women to ensure their fidelity, and which removes a portion of the genitals absolutely vital to gratification. It is the very epitome of patriarchy, whereas circumcision is a rite of passage conceived by males for other males, and for thousands of years rooted solely in spiritually contractual language and meaning. Women who have been subjected to FGM invariably come from countries in which extreme misogyny is the norm. Circumcision carries no moral or gender-injustice baggage of this kind whatsoever.

You agree MGM and FGM involve the genitals, but your ignorance about an “unnecessary piece of skin,” FGM, “patriarchy,” and “extreme misogyny” sounds like textbook feminism. This is pretzel logic as to why FGM is bad and MGM is good. Nothing like DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender).

Chase Hironimus should be the Rosa Parks of the intactivist movement. The boy was forced, for no medical reason, to undergo sexually mutilating surgery by his father with the backing of law enforcement. Most circumcisers will not perform this surgery on older boys because of greater risk when using general anesthesia, and the reluctance – sometimes violent, and rightly so – of them to be sexually handled and mutilated without a medical reason. And truth be told, infants can’t fight back or hire a lawyer and sue. Hear the tale of another boy, who at 10-years-old, was tricked into going to the doctor and physically forced to get circumcised, who’s life was turned upside down when he lost all trust in his parents, doctors, and the world.

How is it ethical for anyone but the patient to consent to risky elective and medically unnecessary surgery simply because the person is a minor, a baby? It is actually unlawful, at least in the UK and the USA to perform this on a minor without their ability to consent, like minors aren’t able to consent to sex, but, put a scalpel in his hand, MD after her name, or mohel as his title, then the law and ethics are twisted into a pretzel by even the most intelligent person.

Barbara, would you allow your grandson – or granddaughter for that matter – to be sexually fondled and examined by an adult, and if not, why? Physical and emotional trauma to the child, is obvious, that’s why we don’t allow sex with children. But put a scalpel in someone’s hand (someone because there is NO requirement that circumcisers have any medical degree or training) somewhere (somewhere because this is being done everywhere) and a boy baby who can’t fight back and can’t verbally object is taken advantage of and permanently mutilated for no reason. Why is it OK to allow physical assault and maiming of a child at the behest of anyone other than the child?

Barbara, as an MRA I used to respect you, but now, not so much. Despite you and the AAP’s carefully chosen words, no medical society – including the AAP – recommends routine circumcision of newborns. As a matter of fact, the AAP now warns AGAINST surgery such as circumcision on newborns due to possible trauma to an immature nervous system.

Instead of risking death to your baby, teach him to use soap and water.

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