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Education Without Understanding

Here's a story about a male who decides to have himself circumcised:

"It was a thing I had wanted to do for so long - I work in the health sector so I'd been reading books, discovering the importance of one getting circumcised, that's why I decided to come.

"Mostly I was interested in the healthier status – the better hygiene, the partial prevention of HIV [in men] and the [possible] lesser chance of infecting your partner [with the human papillomavirus, linked to cervical cancer].

"I talked to my fiancée to say I wanted to get circumcised, because sometimes ladies say, 'Why?' I ... [explained] why I wanted to go for circumcision and she accepted it.

"I talked to her about [having to wait six weeks for the wound to heal before having sex]. It's a thing that we needed to discuss, when it comes to that, so that she should not get surprised as to why this thing is not happening - she was expecting to wait.

"It wasn't difficult to talk to her but, again, this is a girl that I would like to marry. [Also,] we are not in that situation where we are staying together; she stays at her parents' and I stay at my house ... maybe with married couples sometimes it may be difficult.

This is where rote memorization of the biased propaganda surrounding non-therapeutic circumcision is a dangerous problem. This man is engaged, so he's presumably monogamous with his fiancée. What benefit will he receive from the potential for circumcision to reduce the risk of HIV or HPV transmission? If he and his fiancée are currently free of both, circumcision will have no benefit unless one of them has sex with another individual, one who is infected with HIV and/or HPV. Effectively, he's surrendered to hysteria. (And his story is being used to sell circumcision on the same grounds.) I don't wish to imply that this is what advocates of non-therapeutic circumcision want, but it's the predictable, unacceptable result when relevant facts and context are ignored (or rejected).

Post Script: Given this man's stated reasons, hygiene is still on the table. In a world with access to running water, this isn't a concern unless he doesn't bathe regularly. I assume he does, but if not, then the issue is not with his foreskin.


I wanted to know what your opinion was on the latest study showing that over 100 babies die annually in the US from circumcision. Do you think it's legit? I was hoping you might do some sort of post about it, or at least make a comment :) I think it is a fairly important study!

Thanks, it's nice to know that people want to read my opinions.

I haven't read the study yet. I'm waiting to see if I can get a copy before I ramble on about its validity.

I'm willing to grant that it's accurate without more knowledge, for the sake of my opinion. Unfortunately, I do that because I don't think this helps us. Whatever the facts, it won't pass the test of what people want to believe. They'll just respond with "nope, that's ridiculous," and move on. No child they know has ever died from circumcision. Therefore, it doesn't happen. Even if the number is single digits over a period of years, as I've documented here, people shut down and refuse to believe it could happen. Circumcision is a faith-based activity, even when it has nothing to do with religion. Evidence is the enemy because it suggests people can and should think.

The more useful focus on this would be to figure out how to get people to hear this and think it possible. I haven't developed a hypothesis for how we might do this because there are so many more fundamental tactics we haven't figured out yet. If we can't get people to recognize how ridiculous (and offensive) it is to surgically alter healthy children or that every child circumcised receives objective physical harm, we're not going to get them to buy into a prevalence above zero for the most drastic negative outcome.

Thanks for the reply. I think you are one of the more intelligent bloggers that discusses circumcision, so I am always anxious to hear your opinion about certain articles or press releases. The link to the PDF is here:


I think a lot of what they are saying makes sense, but I am not particularly good with numbers and figures, so I wanted your take on the study. Thanks again and please keep posting!

Dan Bollinger estimates that 100-120 babies die every year because of routine circumcision. Frank O'Hara doubles that figure.

I have been an intactivist for nearly 30 years. During that time, I have encountered 1-2 press reports every year of an infant dying as a result of having been routinely circumcised. I freely grant that the health care industry has a great incentive to keep circumcision deaths out of the media.

Is it 1-2/year or 100-200/year? I am not qualified to answer. Nor do I care, because to me, either answer is a moral disaster. Even if no one died, routine circ would still be a moral disaster. Parents do it simply because they do not understand penis hygiene and how the moving bits contribute to sexual pleasure. They also fear that an intact son will be ridiculed by other boys, and rejected as a sexual partner by young women. Catering to such craven middle class insecurities is not a moral act.

America, grow up and make your peace with the human body as Mother Nature intends it to be! Some women are flat chested, others have ample labia. Penises come with foreskins. All are beautiful, none should be sacrificed to the scalpel.

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