I've posted on the definition of "mutilation" and why male infant circumcision fits it in the past, but yet another opportunity has presented itself in my Twitter feed and I thought I'd seize it.
It happened like this. I was scrolling through my Twitter/X feed, and I ran across this post: (Picture below in case this gets deleted.)
If your religion makes you cut any body parts off your baby, your religion is evil, your god is evil, or your interpretation of your religious text is evil.— Dr. Melissa Sell (@drmelissasell) December 2, 2023
You become evil by not questioning such an obviously sick and disturbing practice.
🤡 “But we’ve always done it this way,…
When I see a post like this, my immediate reaction is to check the comments to see what people are saying. Shocking, I know.
It's always very interesting for me to see the logical fallacies and double-standards defendants of male infant circumcision use to try and defend the practice. Typically they'll cite "culture/religion/tradition," and “parental choice,” but if it's about anything else, such as some of the practices mentioned on this post, “culture/religion/tradition” and/or “parental choice” leave the chat.
The following reply caught my eye, because it touched on one of the hinges of the arguments against male infant circumcision; the definition of what is "mutilation." (Again, picture pasted below in case the tweet is deleted.)
Ma'am, we could get into the how do you determine your morality and why you designate circumcision evil etc, but instead I'll lay out my case & see what you think:— ArchPhantom94 (@ArchPhantom94) December 3, 2023
My argument is circumcision is not mutilation.
"Mutilation means the intentional infliction of…
ArchPhantom94's opening paragraph is interesting. I'd like to know what s/he thinks about female genital cutting, whether or not s/he believes it's "evil" and how s/he managed to arrive at that conclusion.
If I'm understanding ArchPhantom94 correctly, s/he seems to be claiming moral superiority over Dr. Melissa Sell. If we are to believe Dr. Melissa Sell is a real doctor, which I don’t know if anyone who calls themselves “doctor” on Twitter/X ever actually is, then we can only assume that she determines her morality and designates procedures as “evil” or not, based on medicine, science and research. At least she is supposed to be, because she would be a doctor and doctors deal in medicine, not religion or superstitious nonsense.
If a procedure is medically indicated, then it's right and good. And if it is not, then not only is it wrong and evil, it's simply medical fraud, as doctors should not be reaping profit from non-medical procedures on healthy, non-consenting minors.
As a doctor, one of Dr. Melissa Sell’s guiding principles should be the first dictum of medicine which is the Hippocratic Oath: "First Do No Harm."
After challenging Dr. Melissa Sell's morality, excusing him/herself from addressing his/her own, ArchPhantom94 presents the following challenge:
"My argument is circumcision is not mutilation... Looking forward to your refutation, ma'am."
OK, ArchPhantom94, I'll bite.
In this post I'm going to take ArchPhantom94's post and tear it limb from limb.
Firstly, s/he writes:
Legal definition: "Mutilation means the intentional infliction of physical abuse designed to cause serious permanent disfigurement or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the functions of any bodily member or organ, where the offender relishes the infliction of the abuse, evidencing debasement or perversion."
I'm not sure what law book ArchPhantom94 is copying and pasting from, but it does not sit well in his/her favor. As I have demonstrated in my last post, male infant circumcision was medicalized and promoted for the express purpose of diminishing male sexuality.
Examination of medical literature reveals that scientists and researchers were pre-occupied with the control of male sexuality, namely, the diminishing of male pleasure. The research shows that they were well-aware that the foreskin provided sensual pleasure, and that circumcision decreased it.
"Finally, circumcision probably tends to increase the power of sexual control. The only physiological advantages which the prepuce can be supposed to confer is that of maintaining the penis in a condition susceptible to more acute sensation than would otherwise exist. It may increase the pleasure of coition and the impulse to it: but these are advantages which in the present state of society can well be spared. If in their loss, increase in sexual control should result, one should be thankful." Editor, Medical News. (A Plea for Circumcision) Medical News, vol. 77 (1900): pp. 707-708.
"It has been urged as an argument against the universal adoption of circumcision that the removal of the protective covering of the glans tends to dull the sensitivity of that exquisitely sensitive structure and thereby diminishes sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus. Granted that this be true, my answer is that, whatever may have been the case in days gone by, sensuality in our time needs neither whip nor spur, but would be all the better for a little more judicious use of curb and bearing-rein." E. Harding Freeland, Circumcision as a Preventive of Syphilis and Other Disorders, The Lancet, vol. 2 (29 Dec. 1900): pp. 1869-1871.
"Another advantage of circumcision ... is the lessened liability to masturbation. A long foreskin is irritating per se, as it necessitates more manipulation of the parts in bathing ... This leads the child to handle the parts, and as a rule, pleasurable sensations are elicited from the extremely sensitive mucous membrane, with resultant manipulation and masturbation. The exposure of the glans penis following circumcision ... lessens the sensitiveness of the organ ... It therefore lies with the physician, the family adviser in affairs hygienic and medical, to urge its acceptance." Ernest G. Mark, Circumcision, American Practitioner and News, vol. 31 (1901): pp. 121-126.
"Circumcision not only reduces the irritability of the child's penis, but also the so-called passion of which so many married men are so extremely proud, to the detriment of their wives and their married life. Many youthful rapes could be prevented, many separations, and divorces also, and many an unhappy marriage improved if this unnatural passion was cut down by a timely circumcision." L. W. Wuesthoff, Benefits of Circumcision, Medical World, vol. 33 (1915): p. 434.
"The prepuce is one of the great factors in causing masturbation in boys. Here is the dilemma we are in: If we do not teach the growing boy to pull the prepuce back and cleanse the glans there is the danger of smegma collecting and of adhesions and ulcerations forming, which in their turn will cause irritation likely to lead to masturbation. If we do teach the boy to pull the prepuce back and cleanse his glans, that handling alone is sufficient gradually and almost without the boy's knowledge to initiate him into the habit of masturbation ... Therefore, off with the prepuce!" William J. Robinson, Circumcision and Masturbation, Medical World, vol. 33 (1915): p. 390.
"Phimosis may be a predisposing cause of masturbation in some cases ... Hemorrhage following circumcision at birth cannot be considered seriously as a contraindication. Meatal ulcer due to ammoniacal diapers in the circumcised is not a contraindication ... Routine circumcision at birth is warranted." Editor, Routine Circumcision at Birth?, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 91 (1928): p. 201.
"I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is 'against nature', but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that 'God knows best how to make little boys.'" R. W. Cockshut, Circumcision, British Medical Journal, vol. 2 (1935): 764.
"[Routine Circumcision] does not necessitate handling of the penis by the child himself and therefore does not focus the male's attention on his own genitals. Masturbation is considered less likely." Alan F. Guttmacher, Should the Baby Be Circumcised?, Parents Magazine, vol. 16 (1941): pp. 26, 76-78.
The evidence is clear; desensitization, curtailing male sexuality, stopping boys and masturbating and experiencing pleasure weren’t mere potential side-effects of the practice of male infant circumcision, they were the whole point, the very intention, the very premise, the very basis of why boys were supposed to be circumcised. “Intentional infliction of physical abuse designed to cause serious permanent disfigurement or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the functions” was the intended purpose.
That’s one down for ArchPhantom94.
On to ArchPhantom94’s next point:
Dictionary definition: "severe damage to somebody's body, especially when part of it is cut or torn off; the act of causing such damage"
ArchPhantom94 wants to pull out the dictionary to show us that male infant circumcision isn’t “genital mutilation,” but this definition simply fails to support his point. I’m not sure what dictionary he’s using, but in a past post, I use the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, which defines the word "mutilation" as thus:
1: to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect (e.g. the child mutilated the book with his scissors)2: to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of ; cripple
I'm going demonstrate how male infant circumcision is genital mutilation by all definitions.
1: to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect (e.g. the child mutilated the book with his scissors)
Circumcision advocates often try to dismiss the notion that male circumcision is "mutilation" using definition 2,
2: to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of ; cripple
"because the foreskin is not a limb or an essential part of" a person. While this may be true, I'd have to say that if by this definition male circumcision isn't "mutilation," then female circumcision isn't "mutilation" either. I don't think ArchPhantom94 is ready to concede this point.
In his original paragraph, ArchPhantom94 asks "How do you determine your morality and why you designate circumcision evil?" Here, the question is, how does ArchPhantom94 or any other circumcision advocate determine what is "essential?" When was it decided that the clitoris and/or labia were "essential" and that the foreskin is not?
But here, I think talking about what is "essential" or not is misleading. “What is essential" is not the metric by which doctors decide to remove body parts. There are a number of parts of the human body that aren't "essential" including the spleen, gall bladder and appendix. The clitoris and the labia aren't "essential" either.
The metric any and all doctors must go by when it comes to surgical removal is medical indication. Let us come back to the first dictum of medicine,the Hippocratic Oath:
To address ArchPhantom94’s dictionary definition:
"severe damage to somebody's body, especially when part of it is cut or torn off; the act of causing such damage"
One must wonder if ArchPhantom94 actually knows what a circumcision is. Just so we're clear on what we're talking about, male infant circumcision is a euphemism for the surgical amputation of the hood of flesh that covers the glans or head of the penis, otherwise known as the foreskin. The foreskin is normal, healthy tissue that, with rare exception, is present in all baby boys at birth. Male infant circumcision is performed on healthy, non-consenting minors with no medical or clinical indication.
If we take the foreskin to be the normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue found in all males that it is, then its forcible amputation fits the definition of "severe damage to somebody's body, especially when part of it is cut or torn off." Male infant circumcision is literally cutting off part of a child's penis.
For perspective, here is the freshly severed foreskin off of a healthy newborn, compared side by side with the tip of the clitoris of a baby girl. (Readers should be aware that infant female circumcision is performed in South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore, often referred to as "sunat." See links at the bottom of this post.)
Circumcision advocates would like others to believe that circumcision removes "a little bit of skin." I hope readers can see that the description is misleading. This is no "little bit of skin" but a chunk of flesh. It is the speck on the silver scissors above that is considered "mutilation" by ArchPhantom94 et al.
The last point ArchPhantom94 says on his Twitter/X post is:
"Deprivation" is the operative word and element when it comes to mutilation. Circumcision does not fall under the above, nor under "mutilation" because it does not deprive the male of his natural functions.
Here ArchPhantom94 is changing the argument. "Deprivation" is NOT the operative word and element when it comes to mutilation, and we'll come back to this point in just a moment. Before I do that, I'd like to address ArchPhantom94's assertion that "does not deprive the male of his natural functions"
Here he is changing the goal post at the last minute. The legal definition he gives is "the intentional infliction of physical abuse designed to cause serious permanent disfigurement or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the functions of any bodily member or organ," and the dictionary definition he gives is "severe damage to somebody's body, especially when part of it is cut or torn off." These aren’t quite the same thing as "deprivation of natural functions." This would mean that ArchPhantom94 is implying that "intentional infliction of physical abuse" and "severely damaging somebody's body especially when part of it is cut or torn off" is acceptable so long as these actions don't "deprive someone of his/her natural functions," and I don't think ArchPhantom94 actually means to make this assertion. If so, then this would justify most female genital cutting. After all, a woman can still ovulate, menstruate, become pregnant and birth children without her labia or clitoris.
No, ArchPhantom94, as all male infant circumcision advocates do, ties himself in knots attempting the mental gymnastics of defining "mutilation" in such a way that excludes male infant circumcision. There are two things that are missing from this equation; one, the fact that the foreskin is an intrinsic part of the penis that has value, and two the issue of consent.
To minimize the mutilation that is male infant circumcision, advocates often like to cite the "low complication rates". That's not the problem. That you're cutting off healthy tissue from a child's penis IS the complication. The fact that it's "only 2%" does not rescue circumcision advocates. 2% of 1.4 million babies is STILL 28,000 babies with complications. The risks include infection, partial or full ablation of the penis, a botched procedure with permanent misshaping, hemorrhage, sepsis and even death.
It's circumcision itself that is the problem. Even if everything "goes perfectly well" you're still cutting off part of a child's penis, you're removing healthy, functional flesh from children who aren't legally allowed to get tattoos, and that's the issue.
When it is performed as a matter of medical necessity, and there is no alternative option, circumcision is not mutilation. (This is actually standard medical practice that governs all other forms of surgery.)
Forcibly performing any of these acts on a healthy, non-consenting minor constitutes genital mutilation, and is punishable by law, and there is no exception for "religious beliefs."
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.
Male infant circumcision is mutilation because, in addition to the deliberate destruction of normal, healthy tissue, meant to curb male sexuality, children can’t consent.
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, present in all males at birth; 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.
Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents.
In any other case, reaping profit from non-medical procedures on non-consenting individuals constitutes medical fraud.
Genital integrity, autonomy and self-determination are inalienable human rights. I am against the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors because it violates these rights.
Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.
It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.