“Act First, Understand Later” is irresponsible.

People are determined to believe that circumcision is the ideal prevention for HIV. The problem with this flawed idea rests in one simple truth: too many overlook any other factor that might impact risk far more than keeping intact genitals. It’s far easier to rush to this surgery because it’s accepted. It helps that the victim can’t fight back, though civilized people won’t acknowledge it in quite those terms. Usually some notion of “best interests” will follow the decision.

Unfortunately, there are other factors involved in life. It’s foolish to believe that such extreme choices can exist in a vacuum devoid of any drawbacks. Yet, people do. For example, Andrew Sullivan conceded a stance that he was not justified in conceding. Long-time readers will remember that I hammered this at the time. In my response I quoted a study that included the phrase “other things being equal” to describe how circumcision will protect. I said it then, and here it is again: all other things are not equal.

This bears significance now because Mr. Sullivan links to this story from the Washington Post, via Steve Sailer, about promiscuity in Africa. I’ll get to that story in another entry, but Mr. Sailer comments on the article with this:

Another contributor to the high rates of AIDS in Southern/Eastern Africa besides multiple concurrent partners and lack of circumcision is the bizarre fetish for “dry sex,” which I would guess doesn’t exist among West Africans because (thankfully) you never hear about it among their African-American cousins.

To which Mr. Sullivan responds:

Dry sex?

This is inexcusable. For someone who is now willing to endorse allowing parents to circumcise their sons to prevent (an unlikely) HIV infection if they “believe that diminishing their child’s future sexual pleasure is worth the benefit of extra protection from HIV,” there is an obvious burden not to be blind-sided by a known risk factor in the spread of HIV in Africa. Depending on the prevalence of “dry sex,” it’s reasonable to suspect that this has a far greater impact on the transmission rate than intact genitals. Intact or circumcised, dry sex will lead to abrasions and tears, and as a result, blood. If that blood is tainted with HIV, no lack of foreskin is going to save the male. He is betting on luck alone.

The sensible stance recognizes that parents can never know how their children will behave. But “dry sex” is not generally considered a cause of significant HIV infection in the United States, or the rest of the industrialized world. The risk of HIV infection in America is, in fact, quite low for heterosexual males having unprotected sex with HIV-positive women. This destroys any myth that parents have a right to make a permanent surgical decision for their child that clearly diminishes his sexual sensitivity.

Fear is not enough. Logic and liberty demand that we must look past fear. If adult males wish to have themselves circumcised to prevent HIV, we should not stop them. But advocating or permitting infant circumcision as a means to prevent future HIV infection is merely bowing before fear without concern for understanding.