It's been a while, and I was thinking a post on my blog is long overdue. Believe it or not, your blogger does have a life outside of intactivism; a family to raise, bills to pay, a job to be at. I really wish I had more time to dedicate to this, as I believe it to be a worthy cause.
At any rate, this post was touched off by a recent private message war on Facebook.
It seems that people that both defend the forced circumcision of males, but oppose the forced circumcision of females have an arsenal of canned responses that they're ready to fire off at any given moment. Furthermore, it seems that they haven't given these responses much thought, for upon further investigation, one can see the logical fallacies in their arguments.
It never ceases to amaze me how the same person can present an argument in favor of male infant circumcision, but for whatever reason, the same argument fails when used in favor of female circumcision, and vice versa, an argument used against female circumcision that would also work against male circumcision, but for whatever reason, doesn't apply.
One can witness male circumcision apologists trying their hardest to have it both ways, going through mental gymnastics to make their arguments work.
I shall talk about the points raised in my latest exchange on Facebook Messenger without naming any names to save the person embarrassment.
"Americans do not practice barbaric, pointless practices that leave females in pain for the rest of their lives like genital mutilation also commonly called "female circumcision"."
Here are the myths this statement is imbued with:
- Male infant circumcision isn't barbaric
- Male infant circumcision isn't pointless
- Female circumcision always results in pain for the rest of their lives
- Only forced female genital cutting can be euphemised with the word "circumcision"
This statement is rather flawed, because it relies on a straw-man argument. FGM is "barbaric and pointless mutilation"
because it "it leaves females in pain for the rest of their lives."
While FGM does have disastrous results in some cases, this simply isn't true for most women. Even the WHO acknowledges that there are varying degrees of severity for FGM, and that the worst form of FGM, also known as "infibulation," or "pharaonic circumcision," is actually the rarest. A New York Times article
says it is as low as 15%. Actually, most women in Africa who have been circumcised don't complain
, according to Catania and Johnsdotter. The majority of women in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are circumcised, and, like American parents regarding male circumcision, they don't see what the big deal is.
A circumcised African woman sounding off
A circumcised Malaysian woman speaking her mind
This is important to point out, because some of the biggest arguments that advocates use to justify the forced genital mutilation of boys in America are that:
- Boys don't remember what happened to them as infants
- Adult men don't complain
- Adult men enjoy sex (the converse argument being that circumcised women don't)
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The same argument that would justify male infant circumcision would justify female infant circumcision, but it somehow just doesn't
, or people would rather continue to belief myths that simply aren't reality, because what is true for adult circumcised in America, is true for adult circumcised women in say, Malaysia, Indonesia and countries in Africa.
So it must be asked.
Is pain and/or whether or not it can be remembered in adulthood what makes the forced genital cutting of minors "barbaric, pointless mutilation?"
Is pain and whether or not it can be remembered the issue here?
The fact is that most men weren't circumcised as infants. That's an American or Jewish phenomenon. Most men who are circumcised in the world are circumcised at later ages, when they can remember what is happening to them. I don't hear anyone decrying the fact that scores of men die yearly in initiation rituals in Africa.
A girl is circumcised in Bandung, Indonesia
"BARBARIC AND POINTLESS MUTILATION!"
A boy is circumcised in the same city.
"Nothing to see here... He can still have sex. It's OK."
On with the next part of my exchange:
"If male circumcision was anything like this female "circumcision" practiced in parts of the world, they would have their entire penis removed and not just a flap of skin that can get constricted later in life."
Here are the myths this statement is imbued with:
- Female circumcision is all one and the same
- All female circumcision completely removes the equivalent of the entire penis
- The foreskin in males is merely a flap of skin that can and usually always does, get constricted later in life
- The potential for problems is enough to justify the removal of a body part
Even the WHO recognizes that there are varying degrees of severity of female circumcision
, and that not all remove the clitoris, which the person wants to equate here, with the entire shaft of the penis. As I have already said above, the worst kind of FGM is actually the rarest form.
The question then becomes, would FGM variations that are as severe, or even less severe than male circumcision as it is justified in the United States, be justified?
Is FGM justified so long as it is as severe, or less severe than male infant circumcision as we know it?
I invited the person arguing with me to look at this paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics
, where authors propose just that. Not too long ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) itself tried to justify what they called a "ritual nick."
The fact of the matter is that, even in the most severe cases of FGM, it is simply impossible for the clitoris to be removed in its entirety from the female vulva. As Catania argues, only the tip of the clitoris can ever be removed, leaving plenty of clitoris behind in a woman for sexual stimulation. Even women who have undergone infibulation are still able to enjoy sex and experience orgasm. The claim that female genital cutting renders a woman a sexual cripple for the rest of her life is simply categorically false.
Diagram of internal female anatomy taken from Wikipedia
Other facts that I invited this person to observe are that worldwide, 70% of males are intact, and that there simply isn't an epidemic of men experiencing the "problems" she presents. I invited this person to consider that other body parts are susceptible to disease, but that they aren't removed at birth. 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 1 in 6 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The rate of men developing problems that may require surgical correction is approximately 1%.
The external labia are also "flaps of skin," which could be affected by disease and infection. It is one of the areas affected by cancer. So should these be removed as well?
I'd like to point out to my readers how the argument that "it could cause problems later on"
only works when addressing the male foreskin.
Continuing with my exchange:
"Males with constricted foreskins have to have the foreskin removed or face serious infections."
Myths repeated here:
- The foreskin is prone to problems
- The problem is usually a constricted foreskin
- All men with constricted foreskins develop problems including serious infections
I keep asking people to look at reality. Because what is that reality? That 70% of all men in the world are intact, and that there simply isn't an epidemic of constricted foreskins and "serious infections."
The fact of the matter is that true phimosis is actually quite rare
, occurring at a rate of about 1%. Some men may have non-retractile foreskins that have nothing to do with phimosis, but the majority of these men live their lives with no problems. Infections, when they occur, can usually be taken care of with conventional medicine, just as they are taken care of in women, when they develop infections.
Some men do need surgery, but these cases are rare. What is the reason for the exaggeration? The person is trying to justify male circumcision. Of course, inner and outer labia have their own problems and diseases they are prone to, and some women must have them removed, but let's not talk about why early removal of them in girls is justified.
The exchange continues:
"Having the foreskin removed is what male circumcision involves while in female circumcision, they basically cut deep into an area full of nerves and blood vessels, a very horrible, completely barbaric practice that serves no rational purpose. It is only cruel in every way imaginable."
- The foreskin is not an area full of nerves and blood vessels
I want readers to notice how hyperbole is quite justified when speaking out against female circumcision, as is minimization when speaking in favor of male infant circumcision. The opposite is true; any attempt at minimizing FGM is met with hostility, and speaking about any detriment to male infant circumcision is "hyperbole."
Female circumcision is horrible, completely barbaric, serves no rational purpose, and only cruel in every way imaginable. Really? That's not what people who do it think. I hope it's obvious now that the grounds on which female circumcision is attacked, and on which male circumcision is defended is all self-serving special pleading. The conflicting rationale that only works for or against the circumcision of one sex are a necessary result of cognitive dissonance; the mental acrobatics necessary to holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind.
that the most sensitive area on a man's penis is in the transitional region from the external to the internal part of the foreskin, also known as the mucocutaneous junction, and that this is removed by circumcision.
Diagram from Sorrells et al. study on penile sensitivity
Of course, the foreskin is also an area full of nerves and blood vessels, 20,000 nerves to be exact, however, in the mind of the person I'm having this exchange with, it isn't a problem to cut these off in boys.
The person persists and responds, recycling the same rationale, and repeating what this person already said before in even louder tones:
Saying that you can still have an orgasm if your clitoris is cut off is like saying that you can still use your arm if it is cut off. Yes, you can still have vaginal orgasms as one still has a vagina. However, a female can't have a clitoral orgasm if they have no clitoris and truth is that most females have clitoral orgasms far easier & more frequently than vaginal orgasms.
Why does anyone try to make excuses and make up lies to defend female genital mutilation where the truth is that there is no excuses for clitoris removal regardless! It is equivalent to removing a male's penis head where most of a male's nerves in his sexual pleasure zones are located.
Even after I presented evidence the contrary the following myths persist:
- Orgasm and/or sexual enjoyment is simply impossible without a clitoris
- The clitoris is always and completely removed during FGM
- Intactivists are trying to defend FGM
- Clitoral removal is equivalent to removing the glans penis in the male
- The glans is where most of a male's nerves in his sexual pleasure zones are located
They say you can take a man to knowledge, but you can't make him think.
Science and research are proving all these myths to be false, yet they persist.
It is actually possible to orgasm after losing the glans. There are videos of men ejaculating post penectomy. (Go to X-Tube and search "penectomy.") It is also interesting to note that transsexuals who undergo surgery are still able to enjoy sex without their penises.
Not that this justifies cutting off children's penises in any way; I'm just trying to dispel the "can't enjoy sex" myth and why it fails as any arguing point.
Let's explore this idea that removing part of the body doesn't affect its function.
You can still see with one eye. You can still taste if I cut off the tip of your tongue. Who sees better though? Who tastes better? Likewise, who feels more? Who has better sensations?
The bottom line
Is it truly a matter "severity?"
Because even the WHO recognizes that not all FGM removes the clitoris. The WHO and AAP acknowledge that some forms of FGM are as severe, if not less severe than male infant circumcision.
Is it a matter of "pain?"
Because women circumcised as infants don't remember it either. And girls can be anesthetized as males can be.
Is it a matter of sexual enjoyment?
Because the great majority of circumcised women will tell you they enjoy sex and can orgasm just fine, just as the great majority of circumcised men will tell you.
The bottom line is this:
Unless there is clear medical or clinical indication, the forced genital cutting of ANYONE is a gross violation of basic human rights.
Arguments that only work in favor or against forced circumcision of one sex, but not the other, are self-serving, ad-hoc, special pleading.
Even if female circumcision could be made "painless," and "less severe" than male circumcision, it would still be wrong.
Even if it could be proven that female circumcision would prevent scary diseases like HIV and cancer, forcibly doing it to non-consenting girls or women would still be wrong.
When an action is a basic human rights violation, how much sex a person can still enjoy afterward is secondary, if not irrelevant.