Saturday, May 7, 2011

So Where's the "Sunat Party?"

So Marikina City officials in the Philippines, east of Manila, hope to establish a world record for people attending a "mass circumcision."

According to vice mayor, Jose Fabian Cadiz, "We applied for the Guinness Book of World Records and we are recording everything so we can send all the data to them and hopefully it will be recognized."

In the Philippines circumcision is a rite of passage most males undergo as preteens, particularly during their school summer break from March to May. City officials took advantage of the season to throw a "circumcision party," as they had the local press sell the event.

They offered poor residents "free" circumcisions that would otherwise cost at least $40 in private hospitals. It sounds like a nice sentiment, since in rural areas, the surgery is sometimes performed by non-doctors using crude methods.

In Marikina, east of Manila, boys "receive" their "free" circumcisions.

Wherever I see this story, the comments all try to make light of the situation, with jokes and humor.

But let's stop for a minute.

What would be people's reactions if the gender of the subjects were female?

What if officials in some city in Malaysia or Indonesia were so starved for recognition they threw a "sunat" party and gave away free "sunat" for the girls there? You know, since girls are circumcised anyway, and they "might as well" be circumcised in a "clean environment?"

What if city officials planned to record this data and send it to the Guiness Book of World Records to see if they would get some sort of prize?

Girl receives "free" sunat, at a free circumcision event in Bandung, Indonesia, west of Java.

But it's not the same!
Before people start blubbering with their double-think, I'm going to attack some of the common myths that people spew to maintain the idea that "they're not the same" in their minds.

When female circumcision comes up, here are some of the common one-liners that people try to use to condemn female circumcision, but defend male circumcision.

"Female circumcision removes the clitoris, the labia, and the vulva is sewn up to leave only a small hole for urinating and menstruation; that's equivalent to castration in males."

Actually no, there are many kinds of female circumcision in the world, the WHO acknowledges this, and not every kind removes the clitoris.

The kind of female circumcision most people know, where all external genitalia is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched up, known as Pharaonic circumcision or infibulation, accounts for only 15% of cases globally.

In Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the procedure ranges from rubbing turmeric on the genitals, to pricking the clitoris to draw a symbolic drop of blood. In other instances, the procedure is more invasive, involving what WHO classifies as “Type I” female genital mutilation, defined as excision of the clitoral hood, called the prepuce, with or without incision of the clitoris itself. The amount of flesh removed, if any, is described by circumcisers as being the size of a quarter-grain of rice, a guava seed, a bean, the tip of a leaf, the head of a needle. They use a small pair of sterilized scissors to cut a piece of the clitoral prepuce about the size of a nail clipping. In some areas, they do cut the clitoris itself.

In these countries, surveys show that over 95% of the female population undergoes some sort of "sunat" procedure, and the women seem to be doing fine.

In May, last year, the AAP tried to approve a "ritual nick" for girls. The procedure wouldn't remove anything, and the AAP admitted that it was much less severe than male circumcision. The logic behind this was that if they offered a "ritual nick" here in the States, then parents wouldn't take their daughters abroad to have more drastic procedures done. There was a world outcry, and the month of May did not end before the AAP was forced to retract their endorsement. The message was clear; under no circumstances were medical professionals to come near a girl's vulva with a knife, not even for a "ritual nick.",8599,1988434,00.html

"Female circumcision is different from male circumcision, because it is meant to subjugate women and control their sexualities."

Actually, closer inspection reveals that this was precisely the reason it was done to boys.

"...with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is... the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible...
The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision...
...violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened."
~Rabbi Moses Maimonides

"A remedy [for masturbation] which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision...The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind... In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement." ~Dr. John Harvey Kellogg

But in the end, do the intentions really matter? What if doctors and parents seriously thought it made a woman's genitals cleaner and "more appealing" in their eyes? Just as many of us in America believe circumcision makes a boy "cleaner" and "more appealing?"

Let's change the intentions. For better for worse, mothers in these countries believe they are doing something good for their daughters. Does "sunnat" stop being abuse? Why this double-standard when it comes to male circumcision?

"Female circumcision completely eliminates a woman’s ability to orgasm.”

Contrary to popular belief, even women who have undergone infibulation, which is the worst kind of female circumcision are still able to orgasm.

Actually, "studies show" that female circumcision, nicely euphemised as "labiaplasty" here, can increase sexual satisfaction for both the woman and her partner.

From the site:
- The study found an overall satisfaction rate of 97.2% for women undergoing labiaplasty and clitoral hood reduction
- An overall satisfaction rate of 83% in women having a vaginal tightening procedure (vaginoplasty/perineoplasty), and 91.2% for women combining both “outer” and “inner” work
- Sexual satisfaction with 92.8% of women having both experienced improvement in their sexual satisfaction
- The data also revealed that those women undergoing vaginal tightening (vaginoplasty) reported an estimated 82.2% overall improvement in their partner’s sexual satisfaction as well.

"Male circumcision is an imporant religious tradition in Judaism."

Surprise, surprise, according to the Indonesian Population Council study, many Indonesians view circumcision for boys and girls as a religious duty. But this isn't important, right?

"Studies show male circumcision could have health benefits. The same is not true for female circumcision."
And if they did?

Let's see how far people care about the "health benefits." What if there were "studies" that showed that female circumcision offered "potential medical benefits" for girls? Would we allow, request it for our daughters?

What if there were "studies" that said female circumcision "reduced" the likelihood of some disease? What if “studies showed” that female circumcision “reduced the risk of HIV transmission?” Because there are few studies that show precisely this:

"Female circumcision results in a reduction of infections resulting from microbes gathering under the hood of the clitoris"
"Attacks of herpes and genital ulcers are less severe and less harmful with women who have been circumcised"

How interested would we be in the "potential medical benefits" for girls? Would we support further "research" into the matter? Would we allow the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins etc., to fund "research" in Africa? Well what about these countries where female circumcision isn't as "severe?"

But let's ask a different question, would we support "research" in finding alternative ways to provide the same "medical benefits" as male circumcision? If doctors came into your child's birthing room and said "We have great news! This new vaccine offers the same protections as circumcision and more! Now we don't have to circumcise your child anymore!" How would American parents react? Would they be jumping for joy, or would they request their child be circumcised anyway?

That would be the litmus test for how much we actually give a crap about supposed "medical benefits."

(Here's another surprise; the so-called "benefits" of circumcision ARE already easily achievable through other means; American doctors, parents and "researchers" simply aren't interested.)

Incidentally, for being a nation with a circumcised male majority, the Philippines has one of the worst reputations for HIV transmission. In the 2010 Global AIDS report released by UNAIDS in late November, 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 are reporting increases in HIV cases, with others either stable or decreasing.
Maybe they want to see if they can add that to the Guinness Book of World Records?
American readers may yet delude themselves saying "babies who are circumcised as newborn boys, like we do here in the US, can't remember a thing." But does "not remembering" really make the act any more justifiable?

For readers who stomach it, I encourage you to visit these blogs. Here, parents in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore discuss their baby daughter's "sunat" pretty much the same way American parents talk about their son's circumcisions online. Here too, the subjects of permanent genital modification will also "not remember" what has happened to them. But does this fact justify the act here? What is the list of things that you can do to a child because "s/he can't remember?" And isn't this, the taking advantage of the defenseless, the very definition of abuse?

Blog links here. CAUTION - Not for the squeamish:

Bottom line
Abuse is abuse no matter what age, and no matter what sex.

It is sick, disgusting and despicable that the City of Marikina thought it graceful to throw a "circumcision party," and furthermore, to try and put this in the Guinness Book of World Records. We would be disgusted at the exact same notion for a similar event, such as a "sunat party" for girls; this "circumcision party" and the fact that city officials actually think it should be a world record is reprehensible.

The New York Times wrote an excellent article on the kind of female circumcision performed in Indonesia, "A Cutting Tradition." Read the article here:


  1. This is FABULOUS! Love your point counterpoint style - thank you!

  2. This article shows the double standard of Intactivists. The author applies the same apologetics for female "circumcision" that non-intactivsts use in defense of male circumcision. But he would never think to use those same arguments in defense of male circumcision in order to dismiss female "circumcision." (One hears this constant refrain from intactivists: 'If male circumcision, why not female?') For example, he goes so far as to claim that female "circumcision" can heighten sexual pleasure and that "circumcised" females go on to live healthy, productive lives (something he can't possibly know), while making the exact contrary claim for circumcised males. Indeed, the ludicrous claim that circumcised males go on to live lackluster, sexually diminished lives is a major selling point for intactivists. This only goes to show: despite their claims to the contrary, intactivists are not against circumcision per se, just MALE circumcision. They cry "double standard," only to promote their own. They obviously have ulterior motives: ranging from the attempt to elicit sympathy for males (sympathy seeking), to the justification of sexual abuse of females. They also link male circumcision to the relics of religion. But Christianity, the principal civil religion of America, had parted with Judaism on this point of male circumcision early on, and European culture eschewed circumcision because of this. America inherited this tradition, until medical researchers found a link between male circumcision and healthy benefits. But you won't hear that admission from an intactivist, not directly, anyway. For in attempting to claim that female circumcision "also" has medical benefits, they in effect admit this for male circumcision. No, friend, male circumcision is not a double standard. It is much harder to keep the glans clean under the prepuce than to keep the inner labia and clitoris clean under the vulva. They are different, and are thus treated differently. One doesn't use a screwdriver on a nail.

    1. It sounds like you either don't have good command of the English language, you are missing the point I'm trying to make, or just both.

      We intactivists areat trying to hide any double-standard; we are deliberately trying to highlight it and point it out. The point I'm making here is precisely that the same selling points for male circumcision wouldn't fly with female circumcision. People aren't interested in "medical benefits," or "hygiene" or "sexual enhancement," just trying to justify particularly male and only male circumcision.

      We are in fact against both forms of forced genital cutting. We don't have a problem with men or women who, given the facts, want to cut themselves anyway. The same applies to other cosmetic alterations, say tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery. If you want to do it to yourself, it's fine with us. It's forcing it on healthy, non-consenting minors we have a problem with.

      Um, maybe you haven't been keeping up with the intactivist movement, but we're quite aware of what the bible says regarding circumcision for Gentiles; I'm afraid Christians in America think circumcision is s good Christian thing to do. To show them that the Bible expressly says "circumcision profits the Christian nothing" (Galatians 5) is precisely what we're trying to do.

      Until the same rules apply to both males and females, yes people have sexist, self-serving double standards. Rules that apply to only one sex is the very definition of sexism.

      Actually, cleaning an anatomically correct penis is easier than cleaning the vulva; you'll notice that there are entire isles at supermarkets dedicated to the hygiene of women. You will notice that "researchers" aren't too bothered to find a surgical alternative for women; "it's cleaner" is an excuse for males only. Water and soap for girls, knives for the men, when men are easier to keep clean. Why?

      You try to sound clever with you screw driver and nail quip. Let me remind you were talking about human anatomy. There are threads if you want to talk about home improvement.

  3. "It is much harder to keep the glans clean under the prepuce than to keep the inner labia and clitoris clean under the vulva."

    Where in the world do you get your information?

    Not first hand, that's for sure.

    You ARE aware that globally, 70% of males are intact, right?

    That there is no epidemic of men unable to clean themselves?

    Educate yourself on anatomically correct male genitals.

    Typically, the foreskin retracts to reveal the glans of the penis. For hygiene, the penis is easy to keep clean because it hangs outside the body. With a single motion, the glans can be exposed, unlike the vagina which is always internal and must be cleaned from the inside.

    Do educate yourself on how the penis as nature created it works.

    It really isn't that difficult.