Posted: May 24th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, sexuality, Uncategorized | No Comments »
May is Masturbation Month, and I almost missed it. But that’s okay. I celebrate masturbation every month.
I’ve been saying for years that masturbation should be taught in schools.
And not just in sex education classes. Masturbation should be celebrated. Masturbation should be encouraged. Especially for teenagers. It’s our one and only truly safe sex. As Woody Allen put it, it’s “sex with someone I love.” Or it should be.
Mutual masturbation is a good, safe, alternative to full on PIV sex. No risk of pregnancy. No risk of disease. Shared intimacy. A nice way for a couple to get to know each other.
There is simply no downside to solitary masturbation. Not even the risk of emotional entanglement. You don’t need to ask for consent from anybody. You don’t need anything more than a few minutes of reliable privacy and possibly some Kleenex for the ejaculate. In my case, no Kleenex is needed and I’ll leave it up to your imagination as to why.
In my early teens I felt terribly guilty about masturbating. I worried that it could do me some harm. After about fifty-five years of turning masturbation into my own personal art form, I’ve come to realize that there is no harm in the practice. None.
And now, thanks to Mano Singham, I learn that there’s a whole month dedicated to the joys of the wank - the Merry Masturbatory Month of May. I shall never feel the same about this month again.
Mano also provides a link to an article by Hugo Schwyzer. If you don’t have time to follow the link, here’s a taste of what you’re missing.
The view of masturbation as benign and beneficial is a new one. The Judeo-Christian tradition has long been hostile towards self-pleasure, at least for men. The Talmud compares spilling seed to spilling blood; the Zohar (the central work of Kabbalah) calls it the most evil act a man can commit. The traditional Christian view was no more tolerant; Catholic and Protestant authorities framed masturbation as a deeply sinful (though forgivable) waste of precious semen. Women were left out of these prohibitions for the obvious reason that most male religious authorities didn’t consider the possibility that women were capable of or interested in giving themselves orgasms.
The article gives a fascinating look at the history and rationale behind attempts to curb masturbation. I have a particular bone to pick, so to speak, with the forces of sexual repression, those who tried to prevent what a pocket dictionary I once owned defined simply as “bodily self pollution”.
The campaign against masturbation became medicalized in the middle of the 19th century. Health reformers like Sylvester Graham (of the cracker) and John Harvey Kellogg (of the cereal) warned against the feminizing and enervating effects of male masturbation, describing it not as a sin but as a habit that could rob boys of their vital life force. At the same time, doctors began to warn of something theologians either hadn’t considered or dared to mention: the dangers of female self-pleasure. Beginning in 1858, Dr. Isaac Baker-Brown—the president of the Medical Society of London—began to encourage surgical clitoridectomies to prevent hysteria, epilepsy, mania and even death that would surely follow as a consequence of the stimulation of the clitoris.
The medical hysteria over the totally speculative and imaginary harm done by masturbation is one of the main reasons I’m missing a part of my body, my foreskin. Circumcision was promoted as a “cure” for the practice. I don’t think this worked for anybody. As a cure it was a total failure in my case, and for any circumcised man I’ve ever met. Certainly, circumcision reduces the pleasure of a wank. But it’s only a reduction, and once lubrication is discovered, it’s hardly a “cure”, hardly an impediment at all. And wanking off is one revenge against the assholes who called for a generation of mutilated dicks.’
Now, of course, comes the big question. What is the most appropriate way to celebrate Masturbation Month, more than I usually celebrate I mean? Hmmmm…. Let me think about it. Maybe my wife would like to get involved. A mutual hand job could be a nice variation, and she tells me that she gets off better with manual stimulation than with straight PIV.
Posted: May 20th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate | Tags: circumcision, lawsuit, settlement, Stowell | No Comments »
Sadly, no it won’t. But it’s a good start and about fucking time.
Take a look at this video, and if you are young enough that the people responsible for your circumcision are still alive, consider suing the doctor and hospital that cut off your foreskin without your consent.
In the video, William Stowell talks about his successful circumcision lawsuit, against the doctor and hospital (that circumcised him as a baby), marching for genital integrity and inspiring others to get involved.
Things aren’t quite as simple as this video makes them look. The case was not won in court. It was an out of court settlement. And the issue was not whether Stowell himself gave consent, but whether the consent given by his mother was valid. His mother had been drugged on Demerol at the time, and that seems to be the point that won Stowell his settlement.
This should be a heads up for doctors, and hopefully they will begin to think twice before grabbing that scalpel, but the battle has hardly been engaged, let alone won. The principle of whether a doctor can be sued for doing an “accepted medical procedure” on an infant with the parent’s consent, and even following the parent’s instructions, has not been tested in the courts. My guess is the first case will be thrown out.
The argument will have to be made that circumcision is wilful malpractice, unnecessary surgery, and cannot be done even at the request of a legal guardian. This test is still to come, but Stowell’s victory is a good start.
For those who might still be wondering how circumcision became so popular in America, this slide show is quite interesting.
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, sexuality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
I’ve often heard the argument from defenders of infant male circumcision, more correctly known as infant male genital mutilation, that it’s really best to do it while the child is an infant because he will never remember the pain (not that there is any pain of course, they claim) and it’s really terrible if a man needs to have his foreskin removed later in life. Which often happens. Very often. Often enough to justify removing a potentially troubling part of a boy’s body in a preemptive strike.
One man, who said he is a former military medic, cited the case of a shipmate under his care who required circumcision, causing him great discomfort. He stated as fact that ten percent of men who are intact will require an “emergency circumcision” at some point in their life. Ten percent? Really? Ten percent?
Needless to say, this is a claim that should be backed up with some evidence. Ten percent of intact men will require “emergency circumcision”? What on earth could this emergency possibly be? The foreskin is just that, skin. Okay, skin and a few other anatomical parts most people don’t even know about, like the frenulum and the ridged band, important parts not to be lightly discarded, but mostly skin. Skin is amazingly flexible and adaptive. I can imagine an infection causing a problem, but not a problem that requires surgery. We don’t usually perform surgeries for infection. And perhaps a sudden case of phimosis could leave a man in discomfort, but again it’s hard to imagine a surgical solution being necessary, at least not a surgical solution calling for the complete removal of the foreskin.
Yesterday I found myself in a meeting with several Chinese doctors, one of whom is a fertility expert at a maternity hospital in mainland China. I asked him if circumcision was a usual practice in China. He said no, it is very unusual, and only done in cases of a congenital defect or other serious problem. He told me that the Chinese believe that their body is a gift from their ancestors, and it would dishonour the ancestors to remove or reject a part of their body. Then I asked if he was aware of older men requiring circumcision later in life. He seemed surprised at the question. No, he said, if there is a problem we advise cleaning under the foreskin and might give medicine to cure an infection, but I’m not aware of any circumcisions being done because of a problem.
So there you have it. One more argument of the pro-circumcision lobby shot down in flames. In a country with a huge population of uncircumcised men, we are not seeing lineups at the clinic of men demanding circumcision. Nobody in China seems to see any problem with possessing a foreskin. The excuse that the operation should be done to an infant because it will be necessary, and much more painful, later simply isn’t true.
As if we didn’t know it.
By the way, I also asked what the Chinese doctors thought of the campaign in Africa to circumcise men as a measure to prevent transmission of HIV. They thought that idea is as crazy as the idea that all infants should be circumcised.
Posted: October 25th, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, Personal issues, sexuality | No Comments »
I just read Rebecca Watson’s recap of the whole sexist misogynists in the skeptic community story. What an embarrassment. It’s embarrassing because this pathetic individual who gets repeatedly quoted as a prime example of out to lunch bad behavior just happens to be an intactivist. Like myself. Fucking damn it. Now it figures that the intactivists are fringe fanatics. After all, most people totally accept infant male circumcision, and trivialize any criticism of it. Even PZ, a man for whom I have almost unlimited respect and a vocal opponent of IMC, has been known to trivialize the issue. So we might expect that hard core committed intactivists might not be… totally emotionally stable. But really. The guy quoted in Rebecca’s article is not just emotionally unstable. He’s a fucking nut case. He’s a disgrace to the male gender.
****************begin quote from Rebecca Watson**********************
And then I made the grave mistake of responding to a fellow skeptic’s YouTube video in which he stated that male circumcision was just as harmful as female genital mutilation (FGM). I replied to say that while I personally am opposed to any non-medical genital mutilation, FGM is often much, much more damaging than male circumcision.
The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:
“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”
****************end quote from Rebecca Watson**********************
Oh shit. Now every time I open my mouth on this issue I’m going to be consciously or subconsciously equated with this kind of troglodyte. I can’t tell you how much that hurts.
For the record, I am a HUGE fan of Rebecca Watson. I heard her speak at ConVergence. She’s smart. She’s incredibly quick witted. She has great style. And yes, she is sexy. I am a serious sapiosexual and Rebecca certainly is intelligent.
I’ve also been on record as supporting Rebecca’s position on Elevatorgate, and publicly chastised no less a personal hero than Richard Dawkins for his brain fart of sarcasm and refusal to even see his error, an error that is totally obvious to anybody with half an ounce of empathy.
So, Rebecca. If a disproportionate amount of the abuse has come from the intactivist community, I am really really sorry about that. Please believe that not all men who are committed to ending infant male circumcision have such a font of poison and vitriol bubbling under their surface. As you said, every movement has assholes. I’m just sorry that this includes my own movement.
I wish there was something more I could do to make it up to you. Really. Unforgivable behavior. I feel slimed. I’m sorry.
Posted: October 12th, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues | No Comments »
Just click on these if the writing is hard to read.
Feel free to spread these around. That would make me proud.
Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, sexuality, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Yes, I know. Another Internet petition. But what can it hurt? Click on the link and sign the petition.
The petitioner says that making infant male circumcision illegal is not practical, and I can agree with this. But it’s not an operation that should be done by a doctor, just because a parent requests it.
It would help a lot if the doctor could say: I could lose my license if I circumcise your son.
And that’s what this petition is aiming for. So far, medical associations and licensing bodies have stated that infant male circumcision has no medical value. Well, an operation on an infant that has no medical value, and in the words of the German court decision amounts to “grievous bodily harm”, is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Medical associations and licensing bodies should do more than say that the operation has no value. They should be saying that doctors must not do it. Sign the petition.
Posted: August 28th, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, Personal issues, sexuality, Uncategorized | No Comments »
CHICAGO – The nation’s most influential paediatricians group says the health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh any risks and insurance companies should pay for it.
Oh yeah. I’m sceptical, but let’s look at the numbers.
The article says 100 million circumcisions are performed each year in the US with a cost of between $200 and $600. Using the average of $400, if those procedures weren’t performed, that’s a $400 million per year saving. In ten years, that’s $4 billion.
But the article goes on to say: Meantime, a recent study projected that declining U.S. circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming years because of increased illness and infections.
Looks like a wash to me.
The figure of $4 billion is really questionable and includes the magic words “could cost”, plus there is no mention of how many years this cost is going to be spread over.
Even if those studies are not flawed, and circumcision does provide some (very slight) statistical protection from HIV and other STD’s, it is still mutilation without consent. Does it make sense to cut off a part of a person’s body ten years before he is at any risk? Maybe we should do the same for girls, and cut off their breasts so they can’t get breast cancer. Are they telling me that my penis was mutilated to prevent me from catching a disease I’m at zero risk of catching, just in case I might want to join a high risk group? This is taking pro-active health care too far.
I also question the very common trope – so and so’s son had to have a circumcision because of infection. This only tells me that if you have a child who is intact and take him to the doctor with ANY kind of infection of his penis, the first response is to recommend circumcision. I was circumcised. I have had infections, both as a child and as an adult. Circumcision does not prevent infection. Countries where circumcision is rare, such as China, do not have an epidemic of infected penises. It’s all bullshit.
The interesting thing for me is the amount of cognitive dissonance around this issue. We are asking doctors to admit that they did harm to their patients, not just to patients but to helpless infants. We are asking parents to recognise that they they allowed harm to be done to their child. We are asking circumcised me to recognise that they may not be enjoying the quality of sex they might enjoy, that they have damaged genitals, and that their loving parents did something bad to them. It all adds up to incredible resistance to recognising that the foreskin is a natural part of the human body, a protective membrane, something that evolved with us for our benefit. It is much more complicated than most people on the pro-circumcision side know, and much more valuable. The push for circumcision came from anti-sexual perversion by religious leaders in ancient times, and by medical hysteria in more modern times. It is barbaric and indefensible.
I predict that this current group of studies will again be revealed as bad science, and positions will again reverse. But there will be infant boys who lose a part of their bodies before that happens. A shame.
UPDATEL Thanks to Ophelia Benson over at Butterflies and Wheels for alerting met to some comments on this situation. As I suspected, the science behind the recent flip flop is weak to non-existent, and in fact the American Pediatrics Association did not actually come out and recommend circumcision. They only said that the health advantages seem to slightly outweigh the risks. Ophelia is commenting on another commenter, and you might as well read the original by Brian D. Earp. He pretty much nails it.
Posted: August 1st, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Uncategorized | No Comments »
I had to see a doctor today. There was a notice on his office wall, listing the things that medical insurance in the province of British Columbia won’t pay for. Included on that list was: Routine infant circumcision.
Click to Enlarge
I asked the doctor what that means. Just as I thought, it really means “circumcision for which there is no medical need or justification”. Now why the fuck would they call that “routine”. Okay, it was routine. A long time ago. Back when I myself was an infant, before the invention of television or computers, due to medical hysteria about masturbation and anti-sexual iron age nomadic tribal custom, sanctified by an abusive God. But now… Now it is culturally accepted genital mutilation.
The doctor explained that his college does not agree with nor promote the practice. “It’s really only done now for religious or cultural reasons,” he said. Right. Now if the doctors will just stop doing it, no matter how much of a fee they can charge for it. It’s medical malpractice.
Posted: July 13th, 2012 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, separation of church and state, sexuality, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Note: I considered labelling this post, and these images, as NSFW and putting everything behind a click through, but if we can do this to an infant it is obviously not something we should be ashamed of. So deal with it, and my apologies if you are squeamish.
I’ve had enough conversations now with people who justify infant male circumcision that I can see the arguments coming at me a mile away, and have a hard time not responding with exasperation. I must constantly keep in mind that, though I’ve refuted these arguments before, many times, the person I’m talking to has not given their argument any real thought, and probably hasn’t had anybody argue against their beliefs. So I must be patient. I must resist the urge to scream.
Aside from the fact that I’ve heard them all so often, another noteworthy thing about these arguments is the evidence of cognitive dissonance. A recent example occurred when I said that “infant male circumcision is barbaric”. Instead of considering whether it is or is not barbaric, the person I was talking to responded with: “Thanks for calling my parents barbarians.” Anger is often the first sign of cognitive dissonance. The emotional part of the brain is reacting before any arguments are even considered.
If I describe a circumcised penis as “mangled” or “mutilated”, the predictable response from a victim is “It isn’t mutilation. My penis is not mangled. It’s just fine, thank you very much.” The very word “victim” calls out for denial and a hostile response.
Even PZ Myers, a staunch opponent of infant male circumcision, can slip into this denial mode, as he did in a post some time ago: “I consider circumcision to be needless cosmetic surgery and a barbaric practice, and I’m not going to condone it, but neither am I going to go off the deep end like that guy and consider my life ruined by it. A majority of American males have been circumcised, and we’re a randy, raunchy, sexed-up lot who don’t seem to be suffering from an epidemic of sexual inadequacy.” As I told him in his comments, this doesn’t serve us. He’s contributing to the “it doesn’t really matter” argument. It’s also denying the importance of an issue that some men find very important, akin to Richard Dawkins belittling Rebecca Watson because he thinks her concerns about potential rape are trivial. One should not trivialize another person’s issues, based solely on the fact that you don’t share the issue.
Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force. The theory predicts that the more a person has invested in a belief or a practice, the more likely they are to reject any evidence or argument against that belief or practice. Consider the cognitive dissonance for stake holders in the circumcision debate:
Jews, Muslims and others from a Circumcision Culture – we are asking them to reject their tradition, their covenant with their God, their belief system that circumcision gives them their identity. Not likely to be well received.
Parents – we are asking parents to say that they did something bad to a child, an infant, in their care. This is not something they will accept without resistance. Typical response is: “Nonsense. It’s good for the child. Doctors say it should be done. Everybody does it. It was automatic at the hospital. etc.” What parent wants to admit to doing irreparable damage to their child?
Doctors – what doctor wants to admit that he or she has done unnecessary surgery that has no medical benefits and is actually harmful? Ignore the fact that all reasons for infant male circumcision have been refuted, and most now seem laughable (such as the hysteria about masturbation and the claim by doctors that masturbation caused everything from curvature of the spine to epileptic fits to heart trouble and bad vision, but that it could be mitigated or prevented by circumcision.) Doctors continue to seek justification for this practice that can’t be justified.
Those who have been circumcised – who wants to think of himself as a victim? Who wants to think that his parents made a mistake and allowed him to be harmed as an infant? Not only allowed it, but asked for it and sought it out? Who wants to think they could be sexually less than they might have been? Who wants to think that the great pleasure they have had in sex might not be as great as they thought?
Given all this, it’s not surprising that I hear the same arguments every time I engage in this discussion. While many are open to information they might not have had, or might not have thought about, most stake holders react with a knee jerk rejection and one or all of the following:
Circumcision is part of my culture and heritage. We Jews/Muslims/other-religious-group consider it a covenant with God. Laws against circumcision interfere with my religion. They go against the separation of church and state.
It makes no difference to a man’s sex life. So it isn’t important.
It’s not worth arguing about.
Being circumcised has benefits. Circumcision is good. My doctor said so.
It makes it easier to keep the penis clean.
I know somebody who had to be circumcised later in life and it was no joke.
It’s been shown to reduce STD’s and AIDS.
A boy should look like his father.
A boy will be ridiculed if he looks different from other boys.
It looks neater.
And at the root of the argument is infant rights. Do parents own their children, or are they just custodians? If I react with outrage at the idea that it is okay to cut off a part of another person’s body with no medical justification, merely for aesthetic or tradition or religious reasons, I can expect to hear the following:
The Parental Authority Argument
Parents make all kinds of decisions for their children, everything from choosing the schools to vaccination to nutrition. That’s what parents do. Many of these decisions are irreversible, and some may result in harm. But that’s what parents do. Are you going to ban parents from giving their child fattening foods, or too much ice cream? Are you going to ban ear piercing?
To say that I find all of these arguments either flawed or absurd is an understatement. If you agree with any one of them, please let me know which and I’ll do my very best to give you some information that might possibly change your mind.
My boys were not circumcised. If they ever tell me they are unhappy about their condition, I can hand them a couple of hundred bucks and send them to a doctor. What will the father say to his son if he allowed the infant to be circumcised, and the adult now resents it? What possible valid argument is there for not leaving the decision to the owner of the penis?
I was circumcised as an infant. I had the great satisfaction of hearing my mother say that she would not make the same decision if she were living her life over. That does nothing to restore my penis to it’s proper condition, but it still was good to hear.