Consent is at the center of the intactivist argument...
The difference is consent.
There is nothing wrong with male circumcision, if, indeed, becoming circumcised is the express wish of the adult male in question.
It is forcibly circumcising a healthy, non-consenting minor which is a problem.
Tattoos are beautiful to some. There is nothing wrong with a tattoo, as long a person is giving his full consent. A person interested in getting a tattoo need only walk into a tattoo parlor and make the proper arrangements, s/he is free to do as s/he wishes with his/her own body.
US sailor agrees to have his body tattooed
It is forcibly tattooing a person against his or her wishes which is a problem.
An Auschwitz survivor displays his identification tattoo
In this post, I wanted to expand on this thought just a little more, as the more I think about this, the more comparable male circumcision is to a tattoo.
and/or tattoed man can be compared to a bonsai tree;
a living means for another's artistic expression.
In some cultures, tattoos are a source of religious or cultural identity. The Ainu people of Northern Japan traditionally tattoo the mouths of women.
Traditionally, Berber women's faces are tattooed.
And who can forget the traditional face tattoos of the Maori tribe?
It's no secret that members of the yakuza gangs of Japan are distinguished by elaborate tattoos.
Indeed, to distinguish one group from the other has always been the point of male circumcision.
A Botched Job
Oppression and Shame
Historically, slaves were branded with tattoos across many cultures. The bible outlines that Jews circumcise their slaves (Genesis 17:12, 13) .
Perhaps a person suffered an accident and is left with a horrific scar; a tattoo artist can creatively hide the scar by tattooing over it with something more aesthetically pleasing.
Sometimes men do develop problems where circumcision is surgically indicated. It is rare, but sometimes men do develop phimosis, and a man may or may not choose to get circumcised. (Not all phimosis cases warrant surgery, and it is possible for a man to live with phimosis for the rest of his life.) So yes, sometimes circumcision may actually serve a medicinal purpose.
The same is true of male circumcision. For the most part it is a cosmetic alteration. A circumcised penis can be a source of pride, especially when the results are as intended and aesthetically pleasing. There is nothing wrong with getting circumcised, if indeed, that's what a man wants and he fully understands the risks. A man should be free to be circumcised, as it is his body and his choice.
The problem is when a boy or man is forced to undergo circumcision. Even when there is a medical problem that necessitates surgery (again, very rare), a man gives his consent fully understanding the implications of the procedure. A boy or man who is forcibly circumcised must live with consequences, aesthetically pleasing or otherwise, for the rest of his life, if indeed he survives the ordeal; death is one of the risks of forced male circumcision, whether performed by a trained professional in the hospital, or an amateur shaman in the African bush.
I end this post with my mission statement:
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails.
The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue, with which all boys are born; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting individual is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Wikipedia Tattoo Article
Los Angeles Times - 'Purified' in the Name of Allah (Christians forcibly circumcised in Indonesia)