With Time magazine’s recent naming of the “Silence Breaker” as their “Person of the Year,” there’s no better time in which to ponder the serious matters of sexual violence. The resultant hashtag – “Me Too” – set off as the other, even costlier California wildfire.
Lesser known headlines derive from a landmark case taking place in Michigan, where three doctors find themselves at the center of the nation’s first legal test of that abhorrent practice found in places like Africa, Indonesia, and Egypt. Let’s call it by its name: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It’s estimated that up to 100 young girls were genitally violated at the hands and tools of Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53; his wife, Farida Attar, 50; and Detroit emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala, 44.
There’s a detail that I wish to explore here: According to the Detroit News, federal prosecutors want to argue that this was a sex crime. (Yes, I wish to enlarge the discussion of rape culture.) The doctors’ defense? Religious freedom. The religion, Islam. (In fact, there is a pretext given in Islamic literature – which is not to say that the majority of Muslim sects practice it.) The deputy director of the ACLU says, rather sanguinely, that the First Amendment “doesn’t allow any of us to ignore laws protecting people from harm.” We’ll see shortly.
However, for Intactivists living in the Land of the Free, that sort of hypocrisy smacks us hard across the…well, at least our face. True: the world has a population in which roughly 30% of men are circumcised. But the problem is that that number includes males who are teenagers and older, accounting for international Islamism. This is because Islam, unlike Jewish and Gentile society, does not circumcise their infants. America remains the sole nation, outside of Israel, that routinely mutilates the genitals of their baby boys.
A half-hour’s worth of Googling and one can accrue a small mountain of articles that chastise any comparison between the two forms of mutilation. Simon Hochhauser, co-chairman of an organization in the UK that protects the rights of the Jewish community, writes that FGM “subjugates women,” and that cut men are “very happy!” The famous skeptic Michael Shermer asserts that “motivations matter,” and that the “prime motive of FGM is to control women.”
Lyndia Smith at IbTimes.com writes that FGM “poses a deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and violates a woman’s right to health, physical integrity and security, as well as the right to be free from cruelty and torture – and occasionally, takes away the right to life.” An article up at FemMagazine.com repeats the concern for “reasons why they are carried out,” arguing that “FGM’s main purpose is to keep women ‘controlled,’ and to diminish their identity as sexual beings.” Finally, Leyla Hussein, writing for the Huffington Post, says that “the purpose of FGM is to control a woman’s sexuality,” and that MGM “is not done to decrease a man’s sexual pleasure.”
While admitting that I am not as well-read on FGM, I’ll accept these premises as given. Also, we should all earnestly agree on the importance of intentions; certainly, those listed would constitute sexual violence. But as I will now demonstrate, these commentators could not be further from the truth. In its long history, Male Genital Mutilation has been used explicitly to control men’s sexuality; IE, to reduce sexual pleasure and to curb masturbatory habits. Note: it should be realized that genital mutilation is as old as the pyramids, and because of that, the reasons why are myriad and still theorized upon.
Glick’s Gruesome History
The oldest depictions of male penis cutting are to be found in ancient Egyptian artwork. Being obsessed with purity and cleanliness, it is thought that they would excise the foreskin just for good measure. Of course, MGM is usually associated with the Egyptian’s absconded captives – the founders and followers of Judaism. Leonard Glick, a Jewish doctor-turned historian, outlined the links between modern circumcision and its most popular practitioners. His 2005 study, Marked in Your Flesh, is a recommended authority.
We all understand the basics: In the Book of Genesis, Yahweh commands his humble servant, Abraham, to circumcise not only himself but also every single male in his family – and all male descendants henceforth! As long as the House of Abraham kept this pact, the forebear would persist as “the father of many nations.”
At some point in the first or second century AD, the operation became unspeakably grotesque. Before, it was only the bit of the foreskin that hung below the glans that was to be severed (thus foreskin); this was known as milah. But now there were two more steps. The first was peri’ah, whereby the entire tissue was to be separated from the glans of the penis, and then torn off with a sharp fingernail or object (insuring that no penile skin remained). Next and last came metsitsah. Here, the mohel wraps his lips around the infant’s wounded member and sucks away at the gushing blood, soon spitting out a mixture of amputated flesh and scarlet salvia. Aside from escaping disease, a sip of sweet wine is the best thing that the week-old victim can hope for.
(I need to make a note here. History is history and facts are facts. A secular humanist, as I myself am, can make a rational criticism about religion without indicting every last person who happens to be born into that religion. And an honest commentator can be ecumenical with regards to the Judaic faith, and its proponents, without believing in the Grand Jewish Conspiracy to Rule the World. In other words, the two concepts can be separated. Furthermore, most Jews gave up metsitsah even back then. The exception today is found in New York, where this disgusting final part has resulted in many infants contracting STD’s.)
Rabbinic scholars, pondering this unconditional custom ever since, felt it was their duty to perfect God’s creation. Others analogized it with the trimming of a delightful fruit tree. (Christians came to reject all of it. The Apostle Paul offered a clear refutation, as did Saint Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther many eons afterwards.) Nevertheless, the sacrificial drawing of blood was essential. Another aspect, per the 1st century thinker Philo, was to “suppress[es] the undue impulses” of men, this because men take more pleasure in sex than do women.
One of the most important Jewish scholars in history lived in the 12th century. This was Moses Maimonides. His thoughts on circumcision somewhat echoed Philo’s, but there was one difference between his interpretation and that of his predecessors: Maimonides had no reservations about the physical harm. “With regard to circumcision,” he wrote, “one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, 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.” He added that: “The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: ‘It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him.’ In my opinion, this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision.”
Surviving through the centuries, many of which were racked with embargos, circumcision came to the New World. Jews who immigrated to the U.S. wanted to keep their mutilation tradition alive. And that they did.
Sometime around then, the natural act of masturbation became an affront to Victorian sensibilities. Early in the 18th century, an anonymous English publication condemned it as a cause for “impaired growth, physical weakness, impotence, ulcers, epilepsy, and finally, early death,” writes Glick. The work appeared in nineteen editions, with some thirty-eight thousand copies sold.
As already stated, the wacky motives for genital cutting are numerous. Doing the research, one almost gets the sense that people were simply making stuff up; IE, “reflex neurosis” was the idea that the foreskin, as a kind of spark plug sending erratic jolts to the rest of the body, had caused everything from stomach aches to paralysis (this was taken very seriously). Then came panic about phimosis, venereal disease, and cancer – with MGM heralded as the needed “prophylactic” procedure. While I will try to list the most influential expounders, it should be said again that the evil of masturbation was somehow always floated into the equation.
In 1855, Jonathan Hutchinson, a distinguished British physician, became the leading advocate for circumcision. He penned numerous articles positing that the operation could, along with other miracles, help stop young men from masturbating. “The circumcised Jew is then very much less liable to contract syphilis than an uncircumcised person,” Hutchinson wrote. Notice how an ancient religious practice came to be conflated with medicine. This theme, a gratitude to Abraham and the Jewish rite, was pivotal in getting MGM accepted into Western medical institutions.
About a decade earlier, the American surgeon Edward H. Dixon argued that circumcision cured phimosis, as well as staved off cancer and STD’s. Christians, Dixon advised, would do well to take up “the ceremony of the Jewish people.” Before continuing onward, I will defer to an observation made by Dr. Glick:
As for gentile physicians, many believed routine circumcision to be wise medical practice, and some recommended it earnestly. But only a very few became consistent advocates, while a significant number published articles critical of the practice. In contrast, it seems beyond question that Jewish physicians have been disproportionately prominent as advocates. In particular, they were largely responsible for promoting claims for circumcision as a cancer preventative.
In 1871, another respected physician, Montefiore J. Moses, wrote an article for the New York Medical Journal entitled “The Value of Circumcision as a Hygienic and Therapeutic Measure.” He wrote that, unlike Jewish children, uncircumcised Gentiles were “little sufferers,” with their “haggard faces and extreme nervous irritability,” who were constantly falling victim to “the solitary vice” – jerking off. One of Moses’ fans was J. Henry C. Simes, a urologist in Philadelphia, who held that such behavior was induced by an overly-long prepuce (foreskin).
1886: a fashionable book called All About Baby stated that circumcision was “advisable in most cases,” because it helped prevent “the vile habit of masturbation.” A decade later, eminent professor and pediatric expert Luther Emmett Holt also charged the foreskin as the primary culprit for this horrid act. (The findings here are attributed to David Gollaher’s history of the operation.)
And in 1914, the top medical journal in America, the Journal of the American Medical Association, published a pro-cutting article by Abraham Wolbarst. A surgeon by trade, Wolbarst listed seven reasons in favor of universal circumcision – including general cleanliness, a protection against STD’s, and a “diminished tendency to masturbation.” Yet another was C.W. Cockshut, who wrote in a British journal that the “adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible,” but, as a concern for civilization, it “requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assume a leathery texture less sensitive than skin.” Thus, for the youth, the insensate organ was far less obliging.
The most famous anti-masturbation advocate was Harvey Kellogg. Yes, the cereal guy. Using his fortune and name to further his perversion, Kellogg wrote in an 1887 book that: “A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed without administering an anesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if connected with the idea of punishment.” Kellogg, a thorough sadist, also thought that female clitorises should be burnt with acid.
Glick reports that around one-third of males were cut in 1910. By 1940, due to the increase in hospital births (fewer than 5% of children were born in hospitals at the turn of the century), where the acceptance of penis cutting was now the institutional norm, the rates were somewhere at 60%. In the 80’s, they peaked at 80%. (Again, anti-masturbation arguments were not the only ones put forth. Just to say that they were often shuffled around with the prevention of STD’s, cancer, and phimosis.) Female mutilation? Now that this has been pointed out, one hopes that people will stop deriding the very valid comparison between the two.
A Cosmetic Rape Culture
“Very well,” the detractor says, “But that has nothing to do with the reasons we do it today.” To this response, I will offer three points of contention. The first argues that infantile circumcision is still widely practiced as a means to control sexuality. Secondly, that MGM very well could meet a legal definition of rape. And the third points out the incongruity of Intersectionalist orthodoxy.
1.) How might a feminist respond if I were to make a statement like this: I need to cut off my infant daughter’s clitoris so that men find her attractive when she grows up. Insert emphatical question mark. Let’s try a variation: I plan on feeding my daughter lots of dairy products so that she has big tits and a big ass, and so that her future male partners will enjoy them.
If ever such a perversion was overheard, I would hope that others had shared in the combined feelings of anger, repulsion, and queasiness. Would these not also be efforts to control sexuality? It could at least be said that they were meant to augment sexuality. Now subvocalize the question this way: I need to cut off a part of my infant son’s penis so that his future female partners will find him attractive. If you wish, add: And so that they’re not grossed out by it. But why is this line acceptable? And why do medical doctors get paid money to fulfill this borderline-pedophilic fantasy?
In fact, the misandristic motivation – to have a society full of “pretty penises” – is easily provable by cultural, anecdotal, and statistical evidence.
TV shows and Hollywood movies offer humorous dialogues that demean the natural male body. On the show Seinfeld, Elaine nods depressingly when answering Jerry’s query if she had “ever seen one,” saying that it “had no face, no personality, very dull.” Sex in the City featured a whole episode in which one of the main characters finally coerced her new lover into getting a circumcision. In the 2016 comedy Bad Moms, the girls take the time to think of a contingency plan in case one of them happens to find herself with an intact man. “Run out of the room screaming,” says one. Another opines that intact men are better lovers, because they’re aware of how “gross” their dicks are.
Anecdotally, intactivists are notorious for spending a fair bit of time on social media, where they argue and share information. It’s unbelievable the sort of sadistic and perverted things that pro-cutting females will spew while sitting behind a computer. One memorable registrar was particularly popular on Facebook. In threads and chats where MGM was justified, this unsung hero would screenshot the user, their comments, and then caption it “ButtHurt Bitches.” (For a few examples, there is a blog with this title, but the project seems to have been abandoned. I should say that I don’t necessarily agree with the heading.) I collected (saved) several dozen of these missives while this person was still doing it.
Among the most disturbing: “My son’s wife will thank me one day”; “I hate that people aren’t doing [their] boys anymore for my little girl”; “It’s best to circumcise the male…they are filthy animals and should be treated as such”; “His was well done…a beautiful circ”; “Both my sons are and my husband is too. Just the way we like it”; and, “You implying that I would be sexually attracted to my son/future son’s penis is just disgusting!” (Anybody who wants to see these quotes, or many others like them, can shoot me an email or find me on Facebook.) Remember when George Takei stated (tweeted) that, by merely engaging in “locker room talk,” one promulgates a culture that normalizes sexual assault? If my testimony is trusted, one can see women talking about men as if they’re getting selected from the meat-locker.
And, of course, some damn website must ask that question directly: Ladies, what kind of penis do you prefer? In 2014, the major conglomerate Adam & Eve had just that curiosity. They then commissioned a third-party surveying company, who asked one-thousand American women via an online survey. Their polling results: 54% of women said they prefer a circumcised penis; 33% had no preference; and only 3% said they preferred an intact partner. 10% refused to answer. At this point in my essay, an imagination is not required when figuring out how the preferable penis is ultimately achieved. (No, Adam & Eve doesn’t sell tools for baby mutilation.) I’m not sure about anyone else, but for me, it’s not much of a turn-on when a woman tells me how great it was that I was strapped down to a board as an infant so as to have a part of my manhood surgically removed.
There’s a name given to this fetish, although I can’t prove that it’s been established in mainstream medical literature. Still, several websites define Acucullophilia, simply enough, as a “sexual arousal by a circumcised penis.” As written by Cathy Reisenwitz: “Rape isn’t men versus women. Rape is an aggressor versus a victim. Anyone can rape, and anyone can be raped. We, as a culture, need to be on the side of the victim, no matter what gender.” Well said. And I am here to warn all baby boys born into the U.S. of A: Beware the acucullophiliacs!
2.) According to an official FBI website, the legal definition of rape is: Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. Attempts or assaults to commit rape are also included; however, statutory rape and incest are excluded.
Notice two things here. One, that neither a vagina has to be the organ violated, nor does a penis have to be the object doing the violating. Moreover, the male sex organ is omitted completely, which assumes an immunity against any such criminal act.
But can a penis be penetrated? During infancy, the prepuce stays adhered to the glans of the penis; it’s not supposed to move until sometime around puberty (times vary). Suspending the semantics, one must penetrate the tissue in order for it to be excised.
I am not the first to say this. In 1965, Dr. William Morgan published a renegade article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The pellucid title: “The Rape of the Phallus.” While also putting the blame on religion and nurses possessed with an “insatiable urge” to cut, Morgan stated that:
[M}any mothers will express the opinion that the circumcised phallus is more aesthetic, but in general their experience of the uncircumcised organ is limited to memories of a Michelangelo sculpture which appeared as an illustration in one of their college textbooks. Perhaps not least of the reasons why American mothers seem to endorse the operation with such enthusiasm is the fact that it is one way an intensely matriarchal society can permanently influence the physical characteristics of its males.
Obviously, the difference between a colonoscopy, a pap smear, and the violation of either of those crevices, is a combination of consent with intention. Therefore, infantile circumcision doesn’t necessarily mean sexual violence; I’m sure there are a few parents who are genuinely inveigled by medical arguments (disproven as they all are). But as we’ve seen, there are many who harbor these perverse motives.
3.) Finally, I predict that my critics will come largely from the Intersectional Left. For now, I have no space in which to expound on their nonarguments, inanities, or to explain how they continually evade the padded rooms. However, one of their platitudes is interesting for my purpose: people with penises can be women and people with vaginas can be men. For them, biological realities can be dismissed entirely.
So then, we can imagine the Intersectional feminist become flummoxed as she – “they,” whoever – confronts the idea that the penis being mutilated…might belong to a woman. Would this make the act of infantile circumcision any more “rapey”? Anyhow, this should be something that they deal with. Not I.
Mutilating the genitals of any child – boy, girl, or intersex – is a moral crime. My focus here has been on the male victim. As said by Marilyn Milos, one of the original opponents, circumcision is where sex and violence first meet. I hope to have established that.
A justification that I did not address here (and maybe will at another time) are all those fathers who demand that their son’s penis looks like their own. When I do point out female culpability, I mean to say American women – because the operation is internationally rare outside of religious communities. And when I talk about religion, we shouldn’t forget that many who were born into those cultures have braved the wrath of exile and scorn while trying to get others to yield to modern standards.
Let’s hope for the day in which genital cutting has ceased completely – for all cultures, and for all genders.